As with most major holidays, this one has many memories wrapped around it, most involving food and fireworks -- well, isn't that the American tradition of this holiday?
Probably foremost is the one in 1976, the bicentennial of the U.S., and my first with a baby. Rachel was only five months old, and we took her photo with us and the family car just as my ex had had his taken for years when he was a child. We spent the fourth with friends in Fayette, MO., just 30 miles from where we lived at the time, but we'd lived and gone to school in Fayette much of the previous decade and a half.
I remember watching television coverage of the Tall Ships parade in New York -- how impressive that was! And we were guests at one of the lovely old restored homes with many friends, eating hamburgers and hotdogs and ice cream, and Rachel didn't even cry at the fireworks. It was a magical day, that one.
There were other fireworks, too -- years later in Zionsville, Ind., we'd see everybody in town at the city park where we all gathered to lay on our backs and watch sparkling tracers of light float through the (sometimes foggy) sky., batting mosquitos and either sweating or chilly in the humid Indiana summer... such is the nature of Midwest weather.
I remember another fourth in Birmingham, Ala., when Rach had gone off with her boyfriend and my ex -- on a deadline -- had gone back to work, and I found a spot on a hill where I could watch the fireworks on Red Mountain and listen to the Sky Concert on the radio by myself. It was a lonely night, that one.
More recently, we ventured to San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf (when we lived in the Bay Area) for the afternoon, walking all the way from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square and enjoying the sunshine, the strange and interesting people along the way, browsing through shops and street vendors, and food at a couple of different places. We settled ourselves on the broad lawn stretching to the amphitheater and listened to a band, and waited for dusk and fireworks.
And it got cool. And cooler. And then it was downright cold. While I'd brought a sweater, Tony had poo-poohed the notion that he might need a jacket, and was freezing.
So before the fireworks even got started, we got up, started walking, and finally hailed a cab to take us back to the BART station so we could go home. About an hour later we watched the fireworks on TV from the warmth of our living room. That was the last time that we went down to the Wharf for fireworks!
We're gathering with friends and neighbors to enjoy fellowship and feasting today, and likely will catch Red Bluff's show from afar, in air-conditioned comfort. I'm so grateful for our life and friends here, for the freedom of expression and thought and action that this country affords us, and for those who keep vigil over those freedoms. Thank you.