Fourth of July will always be the bandstand of summer for me. Men burn meat over an open fire, beer flows like the Mississippi in spring, pools slosh with white caps, hotdogs become an endangered species, ice cream puddles in vats, and fireworks cloud the sky with enough phosphoric haze to create its own weather pattern. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Memorable fourths fill a dozen photo albums in our family. The kids spent most of their summers at grandpa’s place, where the mossy scent of lake water and drone of motorboats still bring a smile. Grandpa used to start July 4 by lighting a string of black cat firecrackers by our bedroom window. Clothing for the day had to include red, white and blue. Children vied for the honor of carrying the flag in the annual parade between the houses, all to John Phillip Sousa blasting from the house of a retired neighbor. The parade ended at a flagpole, where the kids recited the Pledge of Allegiance and gave thanks to the men and women of the armed forces who help us keep the freedoms we enjoy.
The rest of the day passed in a melee of games, swimming, popsicle grins, and tube riding (which can be scary as hell when grandpa was driving). We’d give in to demands for sparklers long before the sun slipped below the horizon because the resulting acrid fog helped keep the mosquitoes at bay. Later, we gave out empty mason jars so kids could terrorize the fireflies. Most summers, we pooled our money to obtain fireworks for the annual beachside display. We could get a lot of bang for our buck in those days. Today it costs the equivalent of a fancy restaurant for mostly cardboard and sparkler dust, but it’s still worth it.
Things are quieter these days, now that the kids have flown the coop. The lake house is long gone. No big plans for us, other than to chill on the patio with a glass of wine and reminisce of holidays past to the buzz of katydids in the trees (or cicadas this year if you live in New England).
Here’s wishing you a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July. Go make some star-spangled memories of your own, and don’t forget to burn some meat.