Holidays are always celebrated with family. Many of the customs we had as children are being passed on to our children and now to theirs. The holiday which holds special memories for me is the 4th of July as both my father and husband truly enjoyed this day.
As a child we celebrated by watching the flyover and parade outside my aunt’s restaurant. When evening came we stayed up late to watch the fireworks. When my husband and I married we celebrated this patriotic day with family at our house.
When my husband was alive, preparations started a few days in advance. The 4th began by taking the girls to our town’s cheesiest parade. Decorated golf carts, bikes, scooters, a pieced together band, the fire engine and police on motorcycles were and still are the parade.
The most amazing part, the town’s population of 1800 residents, easily swells to double if not triple the size. The streets are lined with lineage of families waiting to watch the parade, to spot someone in the crowd they haven’t seen and to grab candy that’s being tossed to the spectators.
After we donned on our bathing suits and the girls waited patiently for their cousins. Family knew the party began at 1pm. Some came for the beach, others came to relax on the deck with a book or crafting project. It was a day to be together, to celebrate our independence, and to just chill. The routine has been the same from the first gathering. The same door to the house is always left unlocked. Everyone knows where to put their things. They know to bring drinks, snacks and to head for the beach for an afternoon of playing on the shores of Lake Michigan. Dinner was served buffet style, everyone grabbed a plate and headed outside to eat together.
Dessert was packed up to be taken with us to the golf course. Since there were so many of us and to get the "perfect" spot we would arrive a couple hours before the fireworks. The kids would pile into the back of my brother-in-law’s pick-up truck and begin singing camp songs. The rest of us come by car bringing with us blankets, chairs and flashlights. We were a small caravan.
For me this was the best part of the day. The blankets were laid in just the right spot, the chairs went up and the family was all gathered in one spot. The calmness which enveloped the large delegation was amazing. I would look around seeing, youngsters talking to and giggling with their aunts, uncles and grandfather. The groups would shift but the camaraderie of the family remained. We feasted on our desserts, laughing and wondering why they didn’t get it was dark enough to start setting off the fireworks. Bang! Finally, the first firework was set off. Then nothing. The anticipation grew, the kids clapped and chanted, it was only minutes before our eyes would feast on a beautiful display of sparkling reds, blues, golds, in all shapes and sizes. There would be quiet ones, loud ones and zippy ones. The oohs, aahs and clapping spread throughout the crowd. The nighttime sky was alive. Too quickly it was over. We wove our way through the crowds making our way back to the cars with the kids singing all the way home.
As our girls and their cousins aged and members of our family have passed, our 4th of July tradition has somewhat changed. We still gather here at 1pm. We spend the afternoon at the beach. We no longer go to the golf course, as our neighbors put on a display which rivals the town. Who knows maybe one day we will change our minds on that.
If the girls are home we head to the parade. If not when my extended family arrives the same festivities take place. Although the absence of my husband and the girls has changed the holiday, the love of those who are here help to keep the tradition of this patriotic holiday alive.