The Fourth

(So I’m a day late and a dollar short as usual…)

My earliest memory of the 4th of July is sitting on the hood of my dad’s old, drab olive Pontiac GTO, drinking grape Crush and watching the fireworks from near the train tracks back home in lovely, scenic Columbus.  I remember HATING what I called the "boomers" – the bright, white flashes of light popping in the night sky, followed by loud, popping noises.  No, I wasn’t on board with the boomers at all.  I remember all of my friends wanting to play with sparklers and not being particularly interested myself.  Hmmm, little bits of fire flying off in all directions, including towards my unprotected hand, arm and body?  Um, I’ll pass.

My next clear-cut memory of the fourth is my first parade.  Not the first I attended, but the first I marched in.  During the last week of school of the 8th grade, the band director for the local high school came to my middle school and spoke with the kids that would be heading to his neck of the woods the following fall.   Every summer, the marching band participated in a neighborhood Independence Day parade and, as incoming freshman, we were invited to participate.  After two all-too-brief rehearsals where we learned the marching band equivalent of walking and chewing gum, and a month of frantically trying to memorize Navy Blue & White (fight song) and Parada del Sol, I donned my white polo shirt and my navy blue shorts and headed off to…I honestly don’t remember which ‘burb it was now, to tell you the truth.  Reynoldsburg?  Delaware?  I remember it feeling like what you think small-town parades should feel like.  Kids on bikes with streamers coming from the handlebars, local marching bands, fire trucks.  I marched in many other parades during my 4 years in marching band, but this was my first.

In later years, those parades got harder to crawl out of bed for.  By my early teens, Columbus had instituted Red, White & Boom.  Essentially, Columbus does their big, downtown, choreographed to music, street fair, big shebang on the 3rd of July.  It sounds kooky but I actually prefer it because, by the time you got home at midnight, 1 in the morning, you actually have your federal holiday to sleep in!  Well, if you didn’t have to march. 

But during high school, I had to work at RWB.  Specifically, selling funnel cakes and elephant ears to the greedy, sugar-craving masses.   We’d get to the site at maybe 8:00 a.m. on the 3rd and get home by one or two in the morning on the 4th, if we were lucky.  To this day, I can’t look at a funnel cake without experiencing dual twinges of revulsion and nostalgia.

College is when things got a little nuts.  I discovered life outside the state borders of Ohio and started heading to DC with friends every 4th to tromp down to the National Mall with the rest of the universe to watch the fireworks with a few hundred thousand of my closest friends.  We’d pile onto the Metro, ass-to-elbow with everyone else and then sit in the stifling DC heat/humidity for hours, waiting for the sun to set so we could ooh and aah like we were back on the hoods of our fathers’ GTOs.

Somehow it has all lost its magic.  Fighting the masses on the Mall and Metro holds absolutely no appeal (particularly if said Mall is going to be evacuated due to severe weather).  Maybe it’s time to go back to basics with the cookout in the backyard then head off to find smaller, neighborhood fireworks or maybe even time to trek back home and see how Red, White & Boom has come along in the last twenty years. 

Any ideas on how to bring the wonder back to the Fourth or is it just something that gets lost as you get older?

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4 thoughts on “The Fourth

  1. Jenn says:

    It’s lost it’s magic for me ever since we moved to the city. Fireworks celebrations are crowded and everyone is pushy. People buy and light fireworks for a week beforehand, which freaks out the dog. I dunno, to me, it’s just one more holiday that retailers use as an excuse to get people into the stores to shop, you know?

  2. Jeanne B. says:

    I lost the magic when I lived in a larger city. From my front yard, I was able to casually observe the dozen or so city displays that were taking place simultaneously in the suburbs. I didn’t have to leave home; but it wasn’t the same. This year, I relocated to my hometown and last night was the first time in nearly 10 years that I actually attended a fireworks display. It was awesome. I’ve regained the magic.

  3. Stick says:

    I equate the 4th is just like New Years. Ya gotta want it to put up with the crowds. But I saw some amazing fireworks last night.
    My tradition for most of my adult life is to run the Peachtree 10k (or to drink my way through it) with 50,000 other runners/drinkers. It’s fun. I like the 4th. but not when it falls on a Wednesday. That just boggles my brain.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Uhm, I watched on TV….

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