I have mixed feelings about how The Fourth was this year. We had a great time, but a different time. It’s the whole Can something be just as fun, even though it feels like something is missing? question I keep asking.
This year I didn’t have to get up at 6AM to put our chairs on the parade route, didn’t have to carry half our house from the car to the chairs then back again , didn’t have to stress out that we wouldn’t find a parking spot or that that one stupid food truck would turn its generator on 10 feet away from us and ruin the whole day.
But this year I also didn’t get to bump into someone I knew every time I turned around, didn’t get swept up in a communal wave of patriotism, didn’t tear up at the sound of bagpipers, didn’t watch the sun set while my kids ran back and forth along the lakeshore, didn’t snuggle on a dock with my boys and watch the fireworks rimming the edge of our lake.
We instead had a neighborhood bike parade that no one showed up early for and that had ample parking spaces, should anyone have chosen to drive the four houses down to the starting point.
I didn’t realize how entertaining-deprived I’ve been until I went into Michael’s to get a single bag of candy melts and then had a vision for the neighborhood parade, like how some people see Guadalupe or Jesus Toast. And so I did That One Thing I thought I was done doing.
Not only did I do That One Thing, I also spent half an hour taking photos of it before the parade.
It felt…goooooood. It felt so good to use hole punches and double-sided tape again!
And then, darn it, I did That One Thing again in the evening. There were other people watching so I couldn’t take as many photos lest they see what I really am.
With fireworks shows canceled, we decided to buy our own for the first time since 1994 for me and since ever for Kevin. We realized the boys didn’t know what real fireworks were, so we prepped by watching YouTube videos, which felt weird. Back in my day, you didn’t know what a firework did until it came shooting straight for your chest. Still, I can’t tell you how good it felt to take them to a fireworks stand (which wasn’t a stand but more of a giant pile, but I don’t know what else to call it) and see that the same fireworks of my childhood were still there: ground bloom flowers, pagodas, whistling Petes, Roman candles. It felt like seeing a group of old friends and then later lighting those friends on fire and grabbing onto each other and laughing as the old friends did unexpected things, like light the woods on fire, which in retrospect shouldn’t have been all that unexpected.
Below: a normally a very tame, mild-mannered, rule-abiding group of citizens moments before illegally setting fire to a bunch of explosives in our backyard.
The bucksaw here—that one’s new since my childhood.
It was disturbing how comfortable my boys became lighting things on fire over the course of a day. They had never lit so much as a birthday candle before.
After a round of smoke bombs and snakes, I took a big breath of ashy, sulfuric air and told the boys this—this is what the 4th of July is supposed to smell like! Isn’t it glorious? They looked at me like I had just farted, which is another way of describing the 4th of July smell.
I’m glad my boys got to experience an old-fashioned backyard 4th of July. But I missed the glossy, city-sponsored, brave-the-crowd celebration we’re used to. I missed the closeness of the Fourths of the past—the crowd pressing me closer to my family, the closeness of celebrating one thing with one thousand people, the closeness of snuggling with my boys and coming up with names for the different fireworks as they go off.
So we had a” good ol’ days” Fourth of July. But now there are two kinds of good ‘ol days—the ones from my childhood and the ones from just last year. It’s confusing. I’m happy and sad, nostalgic and living-in-the-moment, Guadalupe and Jesus Toast, and I’m confused!
WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Hot sesame noodles with pork
Sweet & sour cauliflower