Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 4th: Then and Now.

Growing up, I always loved July 4th. We lived on one of the main streets through town, my Grandparents lived across the street. The parade went right down our street and the fireworks were at the high school around the corner. We had the best seats in the house for all the celebrations. Every year, we had a big family picnic, that often included friends and friends of friends. Sometimes we’d have 50 or so people sitting on the lawn watching the parade and fireworks.

We’d usually have our meal around 3 or 4. The parade started at 5. The meal was always the best of everything. Lots and lots of it! It always included Grammie’s potatoe salad and coleslaw. I don’t know what she did to those dishes to make them so amazing, but I still think of them now. Jersey tomatoes were in their full glory at that time of year. I just remember the food being so fresh.

After dinner, we’d clean everything up and head out to the end of the driveway where our lawn chairs were positioned. The streets were lined with people. We’d sit in the sweltering New Jersey heat and watch as the bands went by. We’d see the clowns, the politicians, the kids on their bikes. My parents and grandparents knew everyone! During the parade, people were constantly coming over and saying hi – shaking hands and hugging. After about an hour, it was all over and we’d retreat to the garage for dessert.

Dessert was always the best part. We’d have a table FULL of desserts. Aunt Pearl always brought her chocolate chip cookies. I don’t know what her secret was, but man, they were good cookies. Grammie always made her “yum-yum” cake – this incredible pineapple upside down cake that was even better the next few days as leftovers. We’d stuff ourselves full of desserts, then sit back and wait until dark so the fireworks could start.

Around 9, the show would light up the sky. Lots of “oohs” and “ahhs”. It’d be over by 10 – we’d eat some more dessert while we watched the traffic jam. All those people trying to get home….and we were already home. This happened every year of my life. I always looked forward to July 4th – there were some people we’d only see on that day each year and we’d look forward to it. I attended for the last time 10 years ago. The last July 4th at Grammies was about 5 years ago. Grammie sold the property and moved to Florida. When people found out she was moving, they would say “what will we do on 4th of July?”

These days, I dread July 4th. I dread the week before and the week after. So do our dogs. I don’t mind the one big firework show, its all the little fireworks that go off non-stop for the two weeks around this day in all the neighborhoods around us. Our dogs go nuts and are inconsolable. Plus, we have jobs and have to be up early to get to them, so when someone, somewhere is setting off fireworks from 10 pm until midnight on a Tuesday night, we can’t sleep.

Normally, Fort Vancouver has a huge fireworks display. This year, they won’t be having that. This means that the thousands of people who normally go and watch will be left to their own devices. Everywhere I look, I see tents selling fireworks. And I don’t get it. What’s the big deal? They have always seemed like an accident waiting to happen and a stupid waste of time.

Every year, we wait and eventually it comes – the first firecracker of the season. When that happens, Trevor and I both just sigh in disgust, knowing what we are in store for. What a stark contrast to all the July 4ths of my childhood.

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