(…….actually I was born on the 6th of July, but until I was about four years old, I really thought that the town parade and all those fireworks were for my birthday. Imagine my surprise when I found out it wasn’t!)
In my little town, the 4th of July was pretty special. There was a fairground that magically appeared a few days before the 4th, with great rides, games of chance, and all sorts of food that tasted wonderful but was probably horrible for us. My favorite ride was the swing ride, where dozens of chains were attached to wooden seats, and you were spun so fast that you were nearly vertical to the top of the ride at full speed. I used to lean back in my swing, laughing and watching the stars whirl above me, thinking that nothing would ever be this much fun.
Just the freedom of being out and about after dark in the fair ground (that was in all other times of year the baseball/football/soccer field) where everyone was walking around talking, laughing, eating, trying out all the rides–it was a magical night. And then, when it got really dark, it was time for the fireworks to begin.
My dad would go to the car and get the camp blanket out, and we would find a spot in the crowd on the hill to lie back and watch the fireworks. Cries of “ooooh!” and “ahhh!” and “wow!” wafted up to the sky as enormous showers of pink, gold, green, electric blue, silver and red lights rained down from the sky. Most exciting was the “thunk–psssshhht!” as the fireworks were lit and ejected upward to burst into amazing fountains of color. Occasionally there were funny little curly orange fireworks we called “piggly-wigglys” that squirreled up and out, making little “wssssht-wssssssht-wssssssssssht” sounds as they fell to earth, and made us all laugh.
The grand finale, where all the remaining fireworks were fired off one right after the other, was the height of the show. Boom, bang, whizz, fizz, ka-blam they went and how we cheered them on! As we picked up the blanket and shook it out, we always said that those were the best fireworks ever.
When we moved to Endicott Street, our house was right on the lake, so we would come home after the fair, and sit on the dock and watch the fireworks over the water. Everyone who had boats tied up with each other so that there was a long line of them stretching across the water. Each time the fireworks went off, all the boat horns tootled a salute and the sound echoed happily around the lake.
As I got older, our tradition on morning of the 4th was to walk down to my English teacher’s house on Main Street, where he and his family would have set out doughnuts, muffins, coffee, tea, and Bloody Marys to enjoy while waiting for the parade to start. We would all sit on the slope of lawn that went down to the street and enjoy our “front row” seats. The little kids would wait as close to the street as they could as many people riding by on floats tossed candy to the crowd.
In those days, I watched the little girl who would later become my stepdaughter sit on her father’s (who would later become my Crankee Yankee) shoulders, usually dripping ice cream or muffin crumbs on his head.
Once the parade was over, we would all walk back to our house, where Mom and Dad would host a 4th of July lunch for everyone. The menu was traditional and always delicious: grilled salmon, fresh peas, several salads, and Mom’s special *Red, White and Blueberry Pie (a huge crowd favorite). It was a wonderful time that lives on in my memory, and each 4th of July becomes more and more dear to me as our time and circumstances change.
Of course on this day we remember our veterans and all those who have given so much that we can enjoy the freedoms found only in America, the land of the free and the brave.
When I was young, you saw so many veterans of the “great” wars, striding confidently down the street in the parade. These days their ranks have dwindled to a few survivors ensconced in wheelchairs, tenderly guided by family members. As they pass in review, people stand and salute them, often with tears in their eyes. These grand old men, survivors of so much, are our heroes and we treasure them for who they are and what they have done for us.
The 4th of July is a uniquely American tradition, and how we love to celebrate it! Today may we remember our past, look forward to our future, and most of all, remember that our freedoms come at great cost and sacrifice.
Happy 4th, everyone!
*Here’s the recipe for Red, White and Blueberry Pie:
1 baked pie shell
2/3 cup sugar
3 t. salt
2 T. cornstarch
2/3 cup boiling water
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 T. butter
1 2 T. lemon juice
Whipped cream (homemade)
Fresh sliced strawberries
Blend the sugar, salt, and cornstarch together, then add the boiling water and HALF the blueberries. Cook, stirring gently, until the mixture boils and becomes clear (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Cool this mixture, then fold in the rest of the blueberries. Cover and refrigerate until cold, but not set. Pour into pie shell. Cover generously with whipped cream. Cover the whipped cream with the sliced strawberries.