So I'm joining the party a little late, but I figure it's better late than never! I committed to try NaBloPoMo this month on the encouragement of Kathy from Bereaved and Blessed, and then I went and spent the past five days at family reunions. Hopefully you'll all forgive me, and I'll do penance at the end!
It was always the same, comfortably predictable. Early in the morning, my father would put out six folding chairs on the side of the lawn under our large, shady oak tree (four for us, and two for any friends who happened by and wanted to join us), to stake our claim for a view of the parade. As a kid, I thought that parade was the bees' knees, and I loved the fact that it passed our house, that we didn't even have to truck all of the chairs with us, like everyone else did, even if we did have to tolerate strangers putting holes in our lawn. Honestly, I don't think we even had a marching band, but it didn't matter: there were police cars and fire trucks and what seemed like a billion boys in baseball uniforms and a guy dressed up as Uncle Sam who walked on stilts ... and at the end, there were Shriners wearing maroon fez hats, driving tiny carts around in figure 8s.
By 10:30 it was steamy outside, and after the parade we would retreat to the air conditioned comfort of our house until my mother called us for barbecue: chicken, and sausages, tomato salad, potato salad, green salad, and ice cream. We would lobby to go to the fair, which was held down the street at Memorial Park: my mother never wanted to go, but I loved the veterans selling sausage and pepper sandwiches, vendors with cheap plastic trinkets and balloons, a few games of chance, dancers and karate students doing demonstrations on the small concrete stage. And best of all, there was a shuttle bus, a yellow school bus that stopped opposite our house that would whisk us away to the fairgrounds.
By 5:30, we'd pile in the car with blankets and picnic sandwiches and leftovers from lunch, and drive to West New York, where we'd stand on the Palisades, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of Latinos, where my father felt at home, and where, if we were lucky, we'd catch a glimpse of the Macy's fireworks.
Now, the Fourth of July celebrations I love best are the ones at the Cape, where my husband's stepmother's family rents two cottages every year. I've watched the kids on that side of the family grow up over the past ten years, and I love the fact that they still enjoy the same Fourth of July traditions that they did when they were little, despite the fact that many of them are now in high school and college. There is a picnic breakfast of bagels and juice surfside by the ocean, sand-castle-building and hermit-crab-finding in tidepools on the bay side, swimming in the ponds at the nearby campground, toenail painting, biking on the rail trail. There is ice cream at Cobie's, beef barbecue, and great quantities of gorp. There are remarkable frozen brownies. There are quiet moments of book-reading, and raucous card games. There are no parades, or fireworks (except the ones on the beach), or fairs, but there is family. It's not even really my family, technically, but they've made me feel as welcome as one of their own. And it feels like the best kind of freedom there is.
Though I'm sorry to be back, I can't help but smile when I look down at my toenails, which, this year, were painted courtesy of my five year old son. Here's hoping your celebration was as star-spangled as they are.
G.O.R.P. (which is not really gorp at all)
MnMs (preferably dark, preferably some dark with almond)
Honey Roasted Peanuts
Sunflower seeds (roasted and salted)
Mix together to your desired taste: sweet, salty, nutty, crunchy, chewy, or all of the above.
What are your favorite Fourth of July memories?