Is The Fourth of July the Perfect Holiday?

I have a half-dozen blog posts started, but lack the energy and attention to detail necessary to complete and publish that content. But I feel like lack of posting, this lag, each time I glance at the blog. So here goes something.

I remember quite vividly as a child that the 4th of July would fill me with nostalgia and anxiety as if summer was sweeping to an end, with the return to school inevitable. It was like the tipping point between that “School’s out” feeling and the counterpoint of “What’s our bus schedule?” of August. It wasn’t lost on me that as we typically finished school in the second week of June and return before Labor Day, summer wasn’t quite the three-month holiday everyone spoke about in the books.

There was also that feeling that the holiday *should* have both  festive and somber elements, honoring the founding of our nation as well as the sacrifices of veterans. I was far too young and ignorant to understand that the people who made the real sacrifices for the establishment of this new nation were the Indigenous and Black populations who had no say in the matter and certainly weren’t free or independent.

But my internal anxiety was fueled by the idea that there could be a perfect holiday. If we could just get patriotic napkins or good snacks or something … something had to make it possible to do it right. While I didn’t quite know what the ‘right’ way was to celebrate, I knew that it had to be out there. That was anxiety talking. And anxiety was alway disappointed at the end of the evening. All those illegal neighborhood-kid-launched fireworks didn’t help.

I’ve been to enough adult holiday picnics or cookouts to realize that being a grown-up doesn’t guarantee a good time either. Adulting makes me more aware of the drunken behavior of my family and friends. Or the inhospitable snobbery of someone who doesn’t find the potluck dish quite up to snuff. Or the grown-ass adult throwing a croquet mallet across the lawn because of a missed shot (they weren’t drunk, just boorish.)

Maybe this sort of pontification is why I am not very often invited to holiday cookouts? 🙂

I can admit that I hold a fondness for that experience of balancing a festive paper plate while browsing a spread of deviled eggs, vegetable trays, assorted meat & carbohydrate salads, and whatnot before heading for the dogs and burgers. The way the disposable fork never felt quite solid in your hand and the frustration of getting all settled into a seat only to realize you need a napkin or ice or some such thing. Then the tartness of key lime or lemon meringue pie offset by at least one piece of watermelon.

It is the one time of year when I really like having cold canned pop – I suppose it is part of the nostalgia. Pouring from a two liter into a red solo cup just isn’t the same as snapping open that store brand root beer and taking a really big sip while its ice-cold.

Those are vivid sensory experiences that I can’t quite pin to actual memories. We didn’t have a regular holiday ritual. I do remember one year at my great-aunt’s house because she had an in ground pool and we were relegated to the shallow end. I remember a year at another aunt’s house, also with a pool. I have a vague memory of going to “Uncle Eddie’s pond” when I was very little because my younger brother locked himself in the car. This was circa 1974/1975 and there was no AAA to the rescue. Getting him out before the fireworks began was a big theme. I was more interested in the pond.

Now as adults, we sort of float around. People don’t seem to have cookouts anymore. They go to events. We’ve discussed organizing a cookout, but you may remember that I broke our deck, our glass table shattered, and our hose valve which has been replaced 3x times in ten years does not work. So our outdoor space is compromised. Plus, everyone complains about our steep steps to the bathroom. Everyone being the grandmas. And then some. Throw in some rogue cats and it is an event that takes careful planning. Like getting the deck replaced.

Usually, we end up at Eat N Park for breakfast/brunch, go to Target and then cook our own hotdogs before watching fireworks. I spend hours agonizing over going to the fireworks. I like watching them on TV. It is not especially patriotic, but the view is good.

Maybe I’ll suggest we mix it up this year and do something daring like read The Declaration of Independence together followed by a hearty discussion of the grievances?

If you aren’t feeling up to that read, why not listen to the annual NPR team reading? What’s more perfect than adding NPR to any event?

Happy Independence Day, neighbors. May you be an informed and attentive participant, willing to mutually pledge to each other your life, your fortunes and your sacred honor.

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