Saturday, July 9, 2011

A fabulous Fourth

I love the clarity of Independence Day.  There's no debate over the origins, no confusion over what the holiday is supposed to celebrate.  It's wonderfully clear-cut. This is at least half the reason July 4 remains a favorite spot on the calendar for me.

The rest, I suppose, has a lot to do with childhood memories of unmitigated awesomeness each and every July 4.  It was more than just the fireworks at night at Shiloh Park -- although those were certainly a high point.  It was also because July 4 was a kind of perfect point in the summer.  School had already become a distant memory and the post-Labor Day return was far enough away to hold almost no power over a boy's thoughts.

Once the calendar turned to August, there was a growing sense of dread that began to creep into the phenomenon of summer vacation.  It was impossible to stop the silent calculation of how many days of freedom remained each time you spotted the date on a bank sign or newspaper or carnival flyer. 

The cookies were a hit at Sunday's bbq in Sonoma and Monday's potluck
But in July, everything was still perfect.  The days were long.  You could jump on your Sting-Ray immediately after breakfast and ride it until dark if you wanted to.  Our signal to come home was provided by an huge old bell that stood in our backyard, a relic from some long-closed schoolyard, I guess.  My mom would ring the bell and the brass-on-brass gong would sound throughout the neighborhood and well beyond. 

When I mention that to my daughter today, I'm aware of how much freedom (and risk) she doesn't get to experience. She'll never know what it's like to be 10 and a couple of miles from home, fending for yourself with only a bike and a promise to come home when the bell tolls.  I've puzzled over whether this is because the world is more dangerous or because parents are more cautious, but ultimately it just is.
Jan walked our  patriotic pups in the parade

Which isn't to say she's suffering through childhood.  I suspect and hope she'll have equally happy memories to share when she's a parent, although her mom and I will be in a whole lot more of the photos.

Case in point, this most recent July 4.  Fiona spent the morning of the 3rd decorating her favorite bike, the Electra cruiser.  She took some bike-decorating suggestions from a Martha Stewart magazine she bought primarily for the cookie decorating suggestions.  Other inspirations came from her own mind.  In the end, she had a beautiful entry in our neighborhoods quaint little parade.

I joined her, outfitting the Schwinn Racer in flags and crepe streamers starry, red-white-and-blue garland.  Best of all were playing cards in the spokes.  I had completely forgotten how cool that sound is.  It really sounded like an old motorcycle... or, I guess, what I decided an old motorcycle sounded like when my friends and I would tear up and down the street with baseball cards and clothes pins mounted on the fender struts.

Here's hoping your Fourth was as fun and magical as ours.  And here's wishing you a long, happy summer full of freedom and fun.


  1. Great decorations, the bikes look great! Being in Canada, July 4th is not a holiday for me, but your post is very universal and bang-on. The other day I was remembering my summer holidays and how 2 months of pure bliss stretched before you, but day by day a new feeling would begin to settle in... that dreaded first day of school, looming larger and larger, closer and closer.

  2. Thank you, PaddyAnne. Great name, btw.

    I suppose the love of summer is universal, isn't it?

    I remember delivering newspapers one day at 12 or 13 and being heartsick at the big advertisement for "mid-summer" sales. That meant I was closer to the end than the beginning.

    Now that this is true of life in general -- unless I come close to 100, I'm on "the back nine"-- I try to be more in the moment, as they say.