Years ago when I was in grade school, being tall, I looked older than I was. I went to private school with the daughter of a local politician and he was always popular at parade time. That Fourth of July he was over scheduled for parade marching as most of these politicians can be. He asked his daughter to ask me if I would be willing to sit in a convertible decorated with his signs and wave to the crowd in the town parade since he could not personally do it. His wife was a teacher at our school and my parents did not see anything wrong with it so I donned a bright yellow accordian pleated dress with short sleeves and a high neckline and participated. Sitting on the part of the car where the convertible folds up, with my feet on the back seat, I did my own best impression of a royal wave.
Onlookers just waved back and it pretty much went along without a hitch. At one poing someone screamed, "Hey, you're not Larry! Where's Larry!!!" I just smiled harder and waved and the car carried me away without incident.
Long before that ride in a parade, I was a little girl in the backyard of our new house. Our new house backed up into field several acres large. It was like a huge open area where you could romp around and play football, swing golf clubs, and in winter there was even a hockey rink to skate in. It all belonged to the church we went to and the school we attended. My brother was dropping cherry bombs down gopher holes and my sister and I had sparklers. Sadly she burned her little hand and that was end of that. Not too badly, but bad enough so that our parents changed their mind about how important fireworks actually were on the Fourth of July. They had lit off big dangerous ones and I heard my share of 'pop,pop,pop, whistle, boom' to last a long while. When you are a little girl you are excited if everyone else is, and you cry if someone is crying, especially if they got hurt. I will not forget the colors in the sky that we made.
Time alway had a way of passing and when I was in my twenties I was in New York for the Bicentennial Celebration. I was visiting my then boyfriend who was a Wharton graduate and worked as a silver buyer for Macys in New York. He was a lovely guy and a few years older than me, so I certainly looked up to him and was excited to be in the company of all his successful friends and their girlfriends for this big event in our nation's history. We went to see the tall ships and also to the fireworks at Battery Park. When it was all over we made our way to the streets to try to catch a subway train back to the apartment. There were so many people that the street was a sea of humanity. Some subway stations were blocked off to keep the crowd moving forward. Since there were 8 of us, we held each other by the arms so as not to get swept away in all the push of the people. The crowd was good natured and nothing dangerous happened that I know of. I often have remarked through the years that it was like a bad Japanese B movie, where the Godzilla monster had forced people into the street and they were trying to escape. It was scary, I will admit that. I have never been in a crowd quite like that again. I can safely say that I can finish my life out without a repeat and be happy.
Years later I went to see Venetian night in Chicago which is a parade of boats and yachts all aglow with hanging lights and also the air and water show. I had even ventured out once to Taste of Chicago when it was something new, also international art shows at Navy pier, but nothing was like that trip back from Battery Park. Nothing.
One Fourth of July was pretty special, my sister gave birth to her last child and I thought how fitting that was, as this child turned out to be a firecracker! She was pretty hard to mother, being explosive and colorful, and burning. She eventually toned down and before my sister passed away had made herself into another kind of woman, one a little easier for my sister to deal with. Years after she was born I was in love with someone born on the Fourth of July. I could not believe my good fortune in knowing two people with the same birthday, such an important day.
On one of our first Fourth fo July days together, we went to the local fireworks in our town. As we stretched out on a blanket to gaze at the beauty in the sky he told me a story. When he was a little boy he always believed that the fireworks were for his birthday. I thought that was so sweet. He told me he was quite old when he discovered through some playmates that it was not all just about him. It was a pretty big disappointment. It was also a kind of clue to his later behavior, finding out that not everything is all about you. Ha.
Our summer home in Wisconsin was the scene of many a Fourth of July celebrations! We would grill outside and using our picnic table on our patio enjoy the day on the top of our lovely hill. With ravines on either side of our cottage we felt like we were on the top of it all. The kids had fun there in summer and winter. They would sled down those same hills that they rolled down in summer. Our little patio was just out side of the kitchen. It was circled on it's outline with about a 3 foot high cinder block wall, which the original owner in the 1920's had built in a strategic way to hold a copper trough which carried rainwater to the large cistern in the cellar. That was how water was collected. We put window boxes with beautiful flowers on that wall and used to put sparklers in them and light them. They were gorgeous when lit but the flowers never really appreciated them. The lake was always a beautiful place to retreat to and down there was a park with a huge metal slide, we spent a lot of time supervising the kids at play in that park, it was new in the 1940's.
In our home now, also in a town with a lake, there are many festivals the week of and during the Fourth of July. We have attended this carnival filled, food extravaganza more than once with the kids and enjoyed it. We also have worked on church floats and marched with them in the local parade. When the kids grew and were in high school we spent time in our own town's civil war era cemetary where the marching band came to play. Our daughter was in band and played the flute. We have enjoyed our patriotic times together.
As time has gone by, we have sometimes bought a few little sparklers for the night, but mostly just have a BBQ and head outdoors to glimpse a bit of fireworks in the sky across the woods.
This year with all the heat and dryness we have a ban on fireworks, but I would say there are enough going off politically, with the election coming.
Enjoy your Fourth of July!
More on the Fourth from last year:
Copyright 2012 by SheilaTGTG55