When I was little celebrating the 4th of July was either full on or just a day. Full on meant waking up for town races, basketball throws, swim and diving competitions. The pool was open to everyone, so it was extra crowded and beyond loud. There was a bbq where we ate hamburgers grilled by the dads and soggy corn drenched in “butter” while waiting for the ceremony of ribbons from the morning’s events. At night we headed to Memorial Field for fireworks…which would be banned these days since we were literally sitting under the fireworks…scooting if embers got too close to our bare legs. The next morning at the crack of dawn, still in the clothing and bug spray from the night before…we would return to hunt for unlit explosives… glory days. Just another day holidays meant waking up at Fire Island and maybe seeing fireworks on the bay, having watermelon and burgers, the volleyball court in red, white, and blue streamers, but no real festivities.
I love any reason to celebrate, to prepare, to dress up, so I like the 4th to be big. I like memories. I don’t want just another day…ever. A few of my 4th of July memories…
Fainting in Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing while at pre-college summer session, my first time living alone, on a walk down to the water sans food and beverages…and money…I passed out from heat exhaustion. Life lesson learned. When mom isn’t there, prepare for yourself. * Being on a very brief pause with Greg and going on a date to see the NYC fireworks, running as fast as we could to the water, a homeless man looked at us and screamed over and over you look ridiculous together, he was 6.4, me 5 feet. The “Team Greg” homeless man was spot on; it lasted a week. * Having little kids and sharing the holiday with our NY besties, matching shirts, ice pops and lawn games, photoshoot fun. Letting the kids do sparklers after a long tiring day at the pool, exhausted waiting for dark. Running through grass with glowing spitting sticks of fire. Screaming, screaming, screaming, oh my gosh, why are they screaming? Oh my gosh, they dropped the “finished” sparklers…then were stepping on them…while barefoot. Spectacular parenting moment. Sigh. * Family reunions in South Dakota, Iowa, Upstate NY, Virginia. * Watching the East River fireworks on raised portion of the FDR with my gorgeous pregnant sister-in-law. * Fireworks and parades at the Mall in DC. * Being invited to a boat trip on the Hudson, around the Statue of Liberty experiencing the fireworks from the water. * Having a “moment” with a dear friend lost on 9/11, forever the joker, he pulled a stunt on me as I was touching his name at the memorial. A cherished story for another time. * Backyard picnics, upstate fairs, Fire Island dinners… we have turned the 4th into a fun experience again and again. Glorious.
I am learning to expect nothing and be grateful for all the goodness that presents itself. It is impossible to live life as we did. We do not go to stores. We need to plan way ahead for any celebration. We make due and we are thankful for whatever happens…because we can afford food, pay our mortgage, and we are healthy. Done. Everything else is extra.
This 4th we had a normal day, this and that, daily chores, some Schitt’s Creek. I baked two pies, laundry, a walk. We were invited to a friend’s for a social distance/mask wearing viewing of Hamilton on a screen in their backyard. Bring your own chairs, food, drink, and bug spray. Sit 10 feet apart from others not from your household. They get it, so we went. And that is where the memory occurred.
During Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down), the neighbor’s “kids” put on a full on a firework display. Bursting high in the trees above the screen as we watch the battle for independence. On the screen, young men in their twenties, fighting the war and willing to give up their lives…for the freedom we celebrate each July 4th. Next-door, twenty somethings, unaware they were aiding in the theatrical presentation on screen…setting off expensive explosives, and screaming F*CK YES! at each successful launch. It was hysterical and there is no way you could plan that moment.
I live, I learn, I appreciate, and hopefully I grow. Here is to the next chapter of freedom…to wait and see what happens, to not plan ahead, to bake pies with the fruit on hand, to being ok with making due. Happy Freedom.