On July 4th Traditions…


Today, like most of the people in our community, we celebrated our nation’s independence from England by eating large quantities of mayonnaise based food and sitting around the swimming pool. We didn’t get in the pool, but just sat around it and glanced at it from time to time. The swimming pool is more like the television in the living room; the patio furniture points to it. It should be called a “looking pool.”

The pool is at my little sister Piglet’s house. Charles and I joined her family and my brother, Kevin and sister-in-law, Wendy, and parts of their family for a early dinner. My great niece and nephew enjoyed the pool, as children do, while the adults sat around the patio and talked. Piglet’s husband Buck grilled ribs, chicken breast, giant portabella mushrooms, and cabbage steaks. The rest of us brought sides. Wendy and I both made wild blackberry cobbler for dessert. I made mine with brown sugar and she used white. Her version was deep dish and mine was made in a cast iron skillet. They were both very good and, for both being blackberry cobbler, were very different from each other.

We had a brief rain shower but the patio is covered and we barely noticed. It was such a lovely evening. We shared some old and not so old memories. We talked about our travels, and what is growing in our respective gardens. My cucumbers are going gangbusters, but Kevin’s are not. Kevin’s corn did well and mine didn’t even come up. Piglet’s eggplant is doing very well, but the squash not so much. We talk like old folks.

When we were kids, “firecracker day” was a huge deal. My brothers and sister and I would shoot off the daytime fireworks for a week before the big day. We aimed pop bottle rockets at each other like opposing parties in a civil war. Sometimes we’d shoot them into the pond and watch the red water explode into the air. We played dangerous games with Black Cats and Whistling Chasers. We were hooligans, lucky to have survived the time.

I have a memory of little Piglet, about 5 years old, grousing to Daddy that the big kids had taken all the punks (sticks used to light the firecrackers). Daddy, still a smoker at the time, took a drag off his cigarette and handed it to the barefoot Piglet, saying “here, use this.” Off she went, cigarette in one hand, box of black snakes in the other. We never wore shoes in the summer, not even when fireworks were involved. It seems logical that the experience of stepping on a spent melted sparkler would deter a child from going without shoes for at least the rest of the night, but it was forgotten before the next sparkler was lit.

The Fourth of July was a favorite holiday of my mother. She even started the tradition of a July 4th Egg Hunt, with red, white, and blue eggs strewn about the yard for the grand and great grand kids to find. She put out a large spread of food. Daddy did burgers and dogs on the grill. There was always a strawberry Jell-O cake, a Blueberry Delight dessert, and watermelon. Then we’d stand out in the driveway and light fireworks until they were gone.

We didn’t shoot off fireworks tonight. We didn’t hunt Independence Day eggs. There was no Jell-O cake or Blueberry Delight. We all wore shoes. Our conversation centered on how we were going to prevent a developer from cutting up the 25 acres behind our three properties into one acre lots. Preserving our present way of life is far more important that observing the traditions of days gone by. We have 15 days to figure it out.

The party broke up just before sunset. There was a lovely full rainbow in the sky as we left Piglet’s house and made the 200 foot trip from her driveway to ours. The fireworks started around the time we got home and we had a 360 view of the colorful displays around us. We can “ooh” and “ahhh” to our hearts’ content without any effort at all. Greta and Rudy, our dogs, don’t particularly like it and they were happy to see us arrive home when we did.

I won’t stay up late tonight as I did when I was a kid. I might have another serving of cobbler before hitting the sheets, though.

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