Thursday, July 3, 2008

Celebrating the Fourth of July

Independence Day is upon us. The greatest American day of celebration! Many will mark it with backyard parties and fireworks. Typically, our family enjoys a big BBQ and fun with friends and relatives. This year, we have opted to do something else, much to the chagrin of my family. We are fortunate (or not so) that my family is within reasonable driving distance. I have been going to the referenced family party almost every year since I was born. Of course, as times have changed so has the tone of the celebration.

When I was a young girl, the party was actually held at my great uncle’s house. He, I must mention, is a Korean War veteran and a man I admire for a great many reasons, but I digress. Since I can remember, he and my aunt hosted the most fun July 4th party. There would be incredible spread that seemed unending and would be readily replenished with fresh food before you even realized what was happening. The adults (and bigger kids) would play game after game of volleyball, in fierce competition. The pool would be filled with children and a few adults here and there trying with all of their might to make a whirlpool. Music filling the air was from the 1940’s through the 1960’s and embodied the spirit of America within its notes, harmonies and lyrics.

My aunt’s famous chocolate bon-bons were highly anticipated and the height of excitement (at least for me). The men would often also enjoy a game (or 20) or horseshoes amidst the tree-lined backyard and the older generation would sit at the picnic tables swapping “I remember when” stories. Here, among others, would sit my late great-grandmother who is sorely missed by my family as a whole. Perhaps her absence is part of a reason for the change of tone in the party. Finally, the evening would sometimes be topped off with fireworks (well years back anyway), and then we’d all go home smiling, fat-bellied and tired.

My aunt and uncle have stopped holding the picnics and instead their daughter and family now acts as hosts at their home. It’s a big undertaking, and they don’t have to do it, but do each year now. It’s fun, but it’s just not the same. The atmosphere is different, the music isn’t the same, the faces have grown older and some are now gone. Really, there’s nothing to complain about, but to me, I am still stuck in my memory of the great 4th of July celebrations that we once had.

This year, I told my husband, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. So, instead we’ve opted to participate in our town’s holiday parade and other activities. This evening, we are hoping to take in a local fireworks display. While my children are young, I’m hoping to demonstrate to them the spirit of patriotism (not just this weekend, but every day). I know that’s a lofty goal, but I feel that the 4th of July is a bit more than the barbecued chicken and bon-bons. Yes, I have fantastic memories, and I knew what the 4th was all about, but I never appreciated it until now. I look at this day just as I view Memorial Day or Veterans Day and even Thanksgiving Day. In my nostalgic and romantic mind, it is a day of recognition to appreciate the sacrifices made for our freedom and the way our country has progressed since the days our Founding Fathers penned the Declaration of Independence.

Hmmm, now that I think about it, maybe it’s not the party that has changed, maybe it’s just me and this new perspective. I suppose that happens when you get older.

However you choose to celebrate this Independence Day, be safe. Make some wonderful memories and be thankful that we have a this great Nation to call home.


Olive Oyl said...

Happy 4th!

I know the nostalgia you speak of (except it wasn't chocolate bon-bons, it was my (now deceased) great-aunt Doll's homemade cream puffs. Oh dear I miss those and they can never quite be duplicated.

My perfect Fourth of July memories stem around my grandmothers house, which later became my uncle's house. Loads of food, cousins running around and playing games everywhere, my older cousin H. daring me to lick the salt lick set back in the woods- yeah, did that a fw times. Oh man, and the watermelon! For whatever reason, watermelon was a huge treat in PA back in the 70s. It wasn't something you just bought whenever you wanted from the grocery store. Instead they were these huge melons bought from roadside stands, that were reserved for whatever patriotic holiday of summer it happened to be.

My uncle would somehow come into possession of some very illegal fireworks and he always put on this huge show at the end of the night. We kids would run around with sparklers, and some years we'd wear cheesy Uncle Sam type hats.

This is what Thomas Wolfe meant when he said, "You can't go home again". It just can't be duplicated.

Just a Girl in a Port said...

Happy 4th to you too! Oh, yes, the watermelons. Those are still big with my family, for some odd reason my DH too.

I think old Tommy boy was right. I do miss home a lot though. Ah, to be a carefree kid again.