American flags adorn Amy Calder’s dock at camp overlooking China Lake on Wednesday. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

The camp is spiffed up, fridge turned on, cupboards stocked and boat in the water.

We’re ready to pack up the remaining supplies, scoop up the cats and move in.

Our friends will be visiting for this long July 4 weekend, as usual, and we will eat, laugh, read and cruise on the water.

There’s no holiday quite like the Fourth of July, a day that promises the first real fun of summer.

We’ll take the little American flags from the old chest upstairs and secure them to the dock, place a couple of decorations on tables, and switch on the tiny red, white and blue lights in the vase on the window sill.

This year, we celebrate not only the anniversary of our country’s independence, but also freedom from a year of physical and emotional isolation, fear and stress.

The summer of 2021 will be cathartic, as we’re finally able to spread our wings and enjoy all that Maine has to offer — blue skies and waterways, sandy beaches, lobster and other fare from the ocean, and vacation days to savor.

It’s been a hard year and we deserve to splurge.

We plan to spoil ourselves during our time off, with no apology.

For this July 4 weekend, we’ll consume sumptuous meals — our friends always insist on bringing lots of food and sharing the cooking. They will arrive armed with not only fare for main courses, but also cookies, sweet cinnamon rolls from their favorite bakery and the makings for strawberry shortcake.

As I write this, it is the Monday before the holiday weekend. I plan to hit the grocery store late in the week and, in addition to purchasing the usual goods, will stop at my small, go-to market for filet mignon. I’ll likely bake a batch of muffins for our gathering and whip up some chocolate mousse topped with fresh cream.

Summer is a time for indulging the senses, and on this holiday, we’ll understand more acutely how fortunate we are to live in a beautiful, rural state, a state that — through its assiduous work to ensure our safety during a dangerous year and rolling out a top-notch vaccination plan — enables us to return to a sense of normalcy.

We are grateful to those who made it possible — state officials, health experts, doctors, nurses, educators, police, firefighters, emergency responders and more.

Without their dogged efforts, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate with friends and family this weekend.

Which prompts me to say that there’s always excitement in a community during the days preceding July 4. But this year, it is more palpable.

The prospect of being able to share time with others, swap stories and make memories is especially meaningful.

They say you don’t know what you have until you lose it, and isn’t that the truth? This holiday, we won’t take for granted any of the freedoms we’re fortunate to be able to exercise.

When we say, “Happy July Fourth,” to friends and family, it won’t be just a rote utterance.

We will really, truly mean it.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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