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Happy 4th of July Weekend

July 3, 2010

Happy 4th

For the past few days, each time I think about this 4th of July weekend, I shortly after realize that, quietly in my mind, I’m humming “Auld Lang Syne.”  If you were to ask me what celebratory event does that tune align with, I’d say, “New Year’s Eve.”  So, h0w it had attached itself to this 4th of July weekend had puzzled me. 

But after some reflection, I’ve decided that the lyrics and tune are nostalgic. And the 4th of July is a nostalgic time for me since, in my childhood years, it was a thrilling, daring, adventurous, and thoroughly American event. And it was the only time each year that I ate cotton-candy. 

With free rein, my parents allowed my siblings and me to walk back and forth the quarter-mile to the “old center” in my home town of 7000 people where a parade, rides, games, popcorn, cotton-candy, fireworks, and a flatbed truck with a variety of variety shows, were a fantastical playground for three days and nights.

Rex Trailer , and his side-kick Pablo, was a guest one year. With his six-shooter he shot a fly off the top of a tree 300 feet away. He asked us kids if we could see the fly. I know I could. 

At some point through the celebration nearly every kid was carrying a stick with an American flag at the end of it,  like the one in the photo above. Red, white, and blue pinwheels were your prize for a good score at a shooting booth.  And every kid’s bike was decorated with patriotic streamers at the end of the handle bars or ribbons woven through the spokes. 

Firecrackers were going off endlessly. I think I only once held a firecracker as it was lit. It was terrifying to me. But my older brothers lived in a world that held my vicarious interest as there was hushed talk about who among them had a cherry bomb or who within their circle of friends had, or heard of someone who had, or heard of someone who heard of someone who had, an M80. My father’s warnings against any involvement with fireworks seemed only to entice, as he displayed the scars on the tips of his index fingers – green dots a quarter of an inch in diameter – from his youthful adventures with firecrackers. What kid isn’t in awe of a scar.

All through the weekend there was a hype, an eagerness to live fully, to experience everything as many times as possible. I’d be muscle weary from the walk up and down the hill between the festivities and my house (where my mother’s refreshing iced tea poured like water), and from the games and rides that challenged my muscles like no other time in the year. And I’d have a stomach ache from the popcorn and candy, the cotton candy especially, which I ate as many times a day as I could afford to. 

My money resources came from an annual event in my home. A few weeks before “the 4th,” my father would announce that he’d pay five cents for every dandelion plant – root included – that we dug up from our yard. As the yard was large, this was an open invitation to accumulate all the money you needed for the upcoming weekend. So with brown bag in hand, out the door we’d go with a kitchen spoon as the removal tool. My mother would count our dandelions and keep a tally that she’d give to my father. Our pay came in quarters. It was the only time of year throughout my early childhood, when I had a fistful of quarters. To this day, I dream about the playground where the 4th of July celebration was held. In the dream, I slide down the slide and as my feet kick up dirt where I land, there are hundreds of quarters. 

The 4th of July is a celebration of the United State’s independence from Britain. But for me, the day also now has a fondness – a sweet memory – of family, hometown, and an America that still had a bit of innocence remaining. 

Happy 4th.

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