Monday, July 4, 2011

Random Thoughts for July 4th

The first Thanksgiving may predate Independence Day, but July 4th was the first date to become an official American holiday. Anyone who grew up in America has a July 4th story. They’re all unique even if they're all somewhat the same. There are tales of firecrackers and fireworks, punks and sparklers, parades, beaches, open fire hydrants, ice cream, athletic contests and baseball games, barbeques and picnics. Some memories are terrific, some are less terrific. But everyone has a tale about that one July 4th when....

Our best Fourths always started at the beach. When my brother and I were little, we were Point Lookout people, never Jones Beach. Parked on Dad's army blanket, I can still smell it's most endearing, if not peculiar, odor if I close my eyes real hard and think about it. There was always a baseball game blaring on the leather clad portable radio that weighed a ton. We ate slightly sandy, salty, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Clarabell Double-Doody pops. Mom smeared us with something greasy and foul smelling and then sent us off to play in the water. Who knew from melanoma?

July 4th was also a family gig: it was Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding anniversary (woulda been the 96th this year) and we always managed to have a gathering to mark the occasion. This was a no-argument-you're-going-so-get-in-the-car kinda thing. Not that we bothered arguing too much. Our cousins were our best friends and what was better than spending the day with your BFs? We’d stop at the local farm stand for fresh corn, tomatoes, and cantaloupe. (Hey, no matzah balls! A rare occurrence!) As long as Uncle Marc was in charge of immolating the chicken on a charcoal grill, there was that pervasive aroma of lighter fluid, charcoal, and burning chicken fat. It was heaven. And as darkness fell, we ran around with sparklers as mothers yelled, "Be careful! You'll put someone's eye out!"

So when it turned out that the only day everyone could agree on for our wedding was Saturday night, July 2nd, it came with the proviso that Steve and I could not leave for our honeymoon until after the family gathering on Monday. And so we did. We went to my aunt and uncle in Oceanside, then left for the Catskills. (Yes, we went to the Catskills for our honeymoon...but we were also house-hunting in Poughkeepsie, so it was kinda convenient. Kinda sorta. Steve was in culture shock for a month. What can I say?)

In the days yore, when red-white-and-blue bunting was festooned on anything that didn’t move and everything except the beaches and Nathan’s were closed for the holiday, you spent the day with people whether it was on a crowded beach, in a crowded park, or at a crowded street fair. Everyone was out to celebrate. It didn't matter if you lived in a big city or a tiny farm town. Independence Day was a big deal. 

And it still is. Even my own little suburban neighborhood crackles with bottle rockets and cherry bombs as I write this. And I am loving every pop and hissy swish.

We're living in complex times and near as I can tell no one is particularly happy about government...especially Minnesotans...but that should not dampen our enthusiasm for being Americans. We've survived a civil war, any number of depressions, recessions, and political sex scandals. For reasons which baffle the rest of the world, our government has yet to fall.  And the best part? We get to bitch all we want and no one comes to arrest us. There are a whole lotta places where that just is not the case.

So go out, light a few firecrackers and celebrate that you live someplace where you can say what you feel and vote your convictions. You may not always win, but you've had a voice in the process. It may not be enough for you, but it's a start.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go sit on the porch and watch the Mendota Heights fireworks.

Happy Independence Day!

Wifely Person's Tip of the Week
If you happen to know a widowed person
it's okay to acknowledge their wedding anniversary date


  1. So true and thanks for the 4th memories. Next time I bring the potato salad and cole slaw. ;)

  2. PUNKS! Now that brings back a memory. Oh yeah- and the lighter fluid and chicken fat part too! Happy 4th!

  3. How well I remember July 4 anniversary celebrations -- particularly their 50th anniversary vow renewal in our backyard, and their 60th on the Bi-Centennial (the day that Elinor and Richard announced there would be an addition to the family tree your dad had created). I think about those days often, and miss them. I loved our trips to the beach - Point Lookout was our favorite, also. Dad would created a concoction of lemonade, orange juice, and pineapple juice in a red Thermos jug with a cream lid (I can still see the jug and taste the punch -- always diluted by the tons of ice he mixed in); Mom would make salami on poppy-seed rolls (I think the purpose of the poppy seeds was to camouflage the crunch of the sand). Off we'd go to the beach where Howard and I would bury Dad in sand -- not a difficult feat given that six inches of sand was usually enough to bury him completely (minus his head and his long feet which he'd wiggle through the bucketfuls of sand we'd dump on top of them) -- Robin's transistor radio crackling by her side a safe distance from the sandstorms as we tried once again to cover those size 12 feet.