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.