Posted tagged ‘July 4th’

“Trains tap into some deep American collective memory.”

July 5, 2020

Today is is dark and damp, grim looking. Nothing is moving in the thick, still air. I’m going nowhere today. I’m not even getting dressed today.

I got to celebrate yesterday. I spent the afternoon with friends. We sat outside around the table and talked, caught up with each other. We dined on cheeseburgers and potato salad, the perfect July 4th foods. It was quiet yesterday, no firecrackers, but I had heard the bangs the night before, late the night before. Neither the cats nor the dog were bothered by the bangs. Henry slept right through.

When I was a kid, summer days felt endless. I was up and gone early, sometimes on my bike, but most summer days I walked down the hill to the playground. I had tennis lessons, played horseshoes and checkers and was on the softball team. I did crafts. One summer I painted a tray for my mother. I was so proud because I, the artless, had perfectly painted the flowers and even the tendrils. I made gimp lanyards for everybody but gimp bracelets for only a chosen few. One Christmas my mother put gimp in my stocking. It had been many years since my gimp days, but my fingers remembered. I made two lanyards.

I love train rides. All of the ones I love are somewhere else. I rode the auto-bus from Quito to Guayaquil. My friend and I were in the first seats. I think that was first class. Anyway, I had to shut my eyes when the driver ran over a chicken and then a few more animals and finally almost a human. If one blow of the horn didn’t get them off the tracks, they were goners. The part of the trip I loved was the ride itself. We went through the banana growing region. We rode a switchback up a mountain. We saw the Andes capped with snow. We rode until the tracks ended, and we had to take a ferry across to Guayaquil.

The train hardly runs in Ghana now. I am sorry for that. I took the train whenever I could, usually from Accra to Kumasi where the train line ended. I always took a first class carriage. It wasn’t expensive. The day cars had stuffed chairs, four of them, and glass doors you slid to open like they did in old movies. I once took a night train from Kumasi to Tema. I was on my way to our mid-term conference. At the first station, people peered in my window. I put down the blinds. During the night, the train derailed. I was jolted out of bed. We were told to pack up and get off the train. We walked across a trestle bridge where the gaps between trestles was huge. People passed kids across. We waited a while, probably a long while based on experience but I don’t remember, and then a train came. We got on and got off in Tema. That was the end of the excitement.

My favorite rides of all were the subway trains into Boston when I was a kid. We took a bus to Sullivan Square where we boarded the subway. I remember the whoosh of the train as it came into the station. I’d wait right by the door for it to open. My mother sat in the middle of us. I’d turn around to look out the window. I’d stay looking until our stop. We were in Boston. We got off at the Jordan Marsh stop.

I still love trains. I love the sounds and the smells. I remember the jerking to start and stop. If I were rich, I’d have my own train car or even cars. I’d pay to attach my car to train lines. It would be glorious.

“America is a tune. It must be sung together.”

July 4, 2017

I have traditional posts for most holidays. When I try to write something new, I find I can’t do better. It seems I poured all of my feelings and memories into the very first post, but here is an old memory I’m happy to share: when I was a kid, I marched in St. Patrick’s Shamrocks, a drill team which competed all summer long. All winter we learned our on-field maneuvers. We marched in local parades including the one in Wakefield on July 4th. One of my parents’ friends had a house on the parade route. Everyone would be on the lawn or the front porch to watch the parade. When St. Pat’s marched by the house, everyone yelled my name. I was both embarrassed and delighted. That’s one of my favorite memories of the day.

I just love birthdays and today is the grandest of them all. Happy Birthday, America.

On July 3rd 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail. In it, he predicted the celebrations for American Independence Day, including the parties:

“It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

The problem was he expected July 2nd to be Independence Day as that was the day the Second Continental Congress voted for independence, but the signing ceremony for the Declaration of Independence didn’t happen until two days later so because July 4th appears on the Declaration, it became the date we celebrate Independence.

I know some people complain that the meaning of the day is lost in the barbecues and the fireworks, but they have forgotten John Adams’ hope. We are celebrating exactly as he wished. Flags are waving everywhere. Families get together to celebrate and to break bread, albeit hot dog rolls. Fireworks illuminate the sky. Baseball is played on small town fields and in huge stadiums. Drums beat the cadence in parades. We sing rousing songs celebrating America and our freedom. We also sing heartfelt songs about what America means to us. We are many sorts of people, we Americans. We don’t all look the same, eat the same foods or dress in the same way, but we all celebrate today and we share a love of country. Happy Birthday, America, from all of us Americans.

“I like physics, but I love cartoons.”

July 5, 2016

Yesterday was a perfect July 4th. The weather was wonderful with a breeze strong enough to blow plates and napkins off the table. We had a barbecue which started with appetizers I had brought. One is a favorite, muhammara, which I learned how to make when I was in Marrakech. The other was brand new: a feta dip. It bumped the muhammara as the favorite. We played games, and I was the only one not to win a game. I got pegged the loser. Dinner was wonderful. We had chicken and sausage and pasta salad. A blueberry dessert topped off the meal. During dessert, we watched the Pops at the Hatch Shell. I think John Adams would have loved our celebration.

I woke up to the sound of rain. It was welcomed as it hasn’t rained in so long. At first it was just a few drops then it became a real rainstorm. The house was dark. My papers in double plastic got a bit wet and so did I when fetching those papers from the front yard.

Since then the rain has stopped and it is beginning to get lighter.  It is supposed to be humid today. The heat wave starts tomorrow. Here on the cape we’ll be cooler thanks to the ocean surrounding us.

This is a busy week for me. I actually have a few events on my usually empty dance card. First up is a concert to hear Ladysmith Black Mambazo. On Friday I have another play at the Cape Playhouse. It is The Music Man. I think I’m going to need a few naps!

My first play was at a theater in the round at the Melody Tent in Hyannis. It was The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Debby Reynolds. I was hooked. I found plays amazing. This led to a long time subscription seat at the Playhouse. I think it’s been twenty or twenty- five years.

I remember a Saturday entertainment night at my school in Ghana. The USAID guy had left a projector and a cartoon about food and germs. My students were so amazed by the cartoon they missed the message. They oohed and ahed that the fly looked so real. They didn’t notice it flew from the outhouse to the food on the table. They were as delighted with that cartoon as I had been with my first play. I learned that everything is indeed relative.

“America is a tune. It must be sung together.”

June 30, 2015

This morning I was rudely awakened at 8:30 by the sounds of mowers and saws. I cursed. Come to find out, they were working on my front yard removing the branch which had fallen in that tremendous rain storm, trimming the forsythia and wild roses and blowing my deck clear of leaves and twigs. They also cut off the branches which hung over my umbrella. After they finished, all was quiet except for the birds then a shrill voice broke the silence. It came from next door, the renters ( I almost want to make that word totally capitalized). They have about a 4 year-old girl with the sort of voice which causes chills up and down your back. She’s not quiet, and she yells often. Right now she is crying. The noise forced me inside.

The red spawn has learned a valuable lesson. I didn’t fill the beastie’s favorite feeder so it is forced to use one with wire mesh all around the seed area. When I blasted the feasting beastie with the hose, it couldn’t get out of the mesh fast enough. When I went out on the deck this morning with my papers and coffee, the spawn got out of the feeder and ran. I raised my hands in Rocky type triumph.

What a glorious day it is today. The sun is bright and warm and the sky is blue and beautiful. The slight breeze is cooling.

I have to dress my flamingo in its Uncle Sam outfit for the holiday. It is a star filled blue vest, an Uncle Sam hat and a white beard. Jaunty comes to mind. My Travelocity gnome is always dressed in red, white and blue. He’s a patriotic gnome. I think his name is Henry.

From as long ago as I can remember we celebrated the 4th of July. We always had a barbecue, and we always went to the parade. I love parades with all the music, the floats and the pageantry. Every parade, no matter the length, seems to start and end the same way with police in cars and on motorcycles at the beginning and fire trucks at the end. On July 4th floats and bands, drill teams and drum and bugle corps filled the parade with color and music. Uncle Sam walked the route on stilts. I love July 4th. I’m already making plans!

“It’s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.”

June 22, 2015

The sun is in and out this morning trying to decide what to do. The air is still damp and a bit humid. Right now the sky is dark but the sun is peeking through. Rain is predicted for this afternoon so I’m thinking the sun will disappear for good a bit later.

It is officially summer, and it’s barbecue time. Bring out the ribs, the burgers and the chicken wings then add some sweet summer corn. My home-grown tomatoes are getting bigger on the vine and before too long they’ll be red ripe. July 4th is opening night at the movies. I have three possibilities on the ballot: Independence Day, Jaws and 1776. I’m leaning toward Jaws as it is celebrating its 40th birthday. “We need a bigger boat,” says it all. I have decorations and sparklers and I’m working on the menu. Red, white and blue will carry the day!

Memory is an odd thing. I have vivid memories of my childhood, but I sometimes hunt high and low for where I put my glasses. Some singular moments stand out from all the others, and I don’t know why. They aren’t particularly important moments, but they stay prominent regardless. One memory is silly. I was on the plane to Ghana and we stopped in Madrid. When we got back on the plane, my seatbelt was caught between the seat and the wall so I couldn’t use it. I pretended I was belted when the stewardess went around checking seatbelts. I don’t know why I just didn’t ask for help.

I sat in the back of the room when I was in the sixth grade, but in the front of the room when I was in the eighth. Neither really matters, but I still remember how the rooms looked from each perspective. I remember the candy counter at the movie theater. My favorite nickel bar of candy was a Welch’s Fudge Bar. They aren’t around anymore. My second favorite was a Skybar. You can still buy one of those. The fudge square was my favorite, probably still is. I remember how funny my feet felt in shoes after ice skating. My bologna sandwiches were misshapen because I had to cut pieces from a roll of bologna and some pieces were thick while others were too thin.

I can still close my eyes and see and describe places as they were. I don’t think of it as a trip down memory lane but rather as an adventure back in time.

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.

July 4, 2014

Happy July 4th!

We had a bit of rain this morning. It started just as I went to get the papers. I swear it was done on purpose, but I don’t know whom to blame. I got wet. The sun is out right now, but the storm is heading our way and will be here in the evening and will stay all night with heavy rain and strong winds. Nothing like Mother Nature dramatically celebrating the 4th of July in her own way.

My American flag waves in the front yard all the time. My Peace Corps flag does too. For today I have bunting hung on the fence and a wooden flag on the gate. I am proud to be an America. It is the greatest country in the world. We aren’t always right in what we do, but we usually do it with the best of intentions, and we welcome dissenters who disagree. Look around. You see Americans from so many different places. Try to describe an American, and you can’t give a physical description. The most ardent Americans are often from somewhere else, people who have chosen to become citizens because they see and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy. We have lived with those freedoms all our lives and sometimes we forget what we have. Today is a day to remember we live in the home of the free and the brave.

On July 4th in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. They’d been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes.

July 4, 1776, became the date that was included on the Declaration of Independence, and the fancy handwritten copy that was signed in August. It’s also the date that was printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation. So when people thought of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 was the date they remembered.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


“Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant?? I’m halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh my God….I could be eating a slow learner.”

July 5, 2013

Yesterday was a quiet July 4th for me. I watched the Sox win from the comfort of my air-conditioned house. At game time it was 92˚, and I couldn’t imagine sitting in the bleachers in all that heat. Fenway must have been awash with sweat. Last night I could hear the sounds of firecrackers from all over the neighborhood. I watched Independence Day. That and Jaws are my traditional July 4th movies, “You yell ‘Shark,’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.” Last night I watched the Boston Pops on the esplanade.  All in all it was a good day.

My father loved to fish, mostly in the winter for smelt. He also dug quahogs. He’d fill his basket, bring them home and open the shells. My mother would make stuffed quahog, put the stuffing into the shells, and we’d have some right away while she froze the rest. I loved smelt though they were so small it took several to make a meal. Baked, stuffed quahog is still a favorite of mine.

My mother didn’t serve fresh fish when we were growing up. I remember meatless Friday nights and having French fries and fish sticks for dinner. As we got older, my mother got a bit of courage and started serving fresh fish. She started with a casserole, sort of fish in disguise, and we ate it up. That casserole also had shrimp, and I remember it was heavenly. We’d ask for it often. I still make every now and then, but somehow it just doesn’t taste the same as my mother’s. I swear she had a golden touch.

I love fish and shellfish. Lobster is one of my favorites. Sometimes when I’d visit my parents for the weekend, my dad would take my mom and me out to dinner for twin lobsters. The only problem was there was nowhere to hide. Sitting beside or across from my father made you a target, and you knew there was no way to avoid the squirts as my dad devoured his lobster. He was the best lobster eater I’ve ever seen. Even the small amount of meat from the legs got eaten. He was also one of the noisiest as he sucked the meat from those legs and hmmed his way through the lobster. When he was finished only shells were left, never a trace of lobster meat.

My sister and I learned to eat lobster by watching our dad. We are also messy, and we are never quiet. We eat every piece of meat, even from the legs. We pride ourselves on our prowess in devouring a lobster. Without question, it is one of the best life lessons my dad taught us.

“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country! “

July 4, 2013

July 4th was always exciting when I was growing up. The next town over had one of the great parades which seemed to last forever filled as it was with bands and floats. We’d go to a house right on the parade route which had a huge porch where we’d all hang out to watch the parade. The table inside was covered with foods like potato salad and hot dogs and burgers and watermelon. Popsicles were in the freezer. It was eat when you’re hungry. At night came the fireworks. We never went that often, but I could see them from my house when they colored the sky high in the air. When I was older and a member of a drill team, I marched in that parade. When we’d get to the white house with the porch, the whole crowd of people would yell my name. I was both embarrassed and pleased. When I was older, my friends and I would go to the fireworks. We’d bring a blanket and some food and stake out a spot right near the water over which the fireworks would burst. We couldn’t help ourselves. The oohs and ahs came out of our mouths almost every time fireworks burst overhead and filled the sky with colors and patterns.

I remember the decorated carriage and bicycle contests held in the morning, before the parade. My sister won the year she was a hula girl. Her  doll carriage was frilled with colored crepe paper looking like a hula skirt.

One year I saw Big Bother Bob Emery at the bandstand near the lake. He was on television every day when I was a little kid. I remember we’d toast President Eisenhower with milk as Hail to the Chief played. Big Brother was a TV icon to me. He’d play his uke and sing The Grass Is Always Greener.

I remember sparklers and how excited we were to have our own fireworks. I’d hold the sparkler as close to the bottom as I could when my father lit the top. I remember how sometimes a spark would land on my hand or arm and how it burned just a little. We’d spin the sparklers and make our own light show. The sparklers made a hissing sound when they burned. We’d each get one at a time and then we could back for more until the boxes were empty.

July 4th seemed to last forever, well into the night, well beyond my usual bedtime.

“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!”

July 4, 2010

The day is glorious, warm and sunny. It is a bit stickier than yesterday, but an ocean breeze tempers the humidity. Last night my neighborhood was filled with the sounds of fireworks, with the bangs and the sizzles. The morning is quieter.

I will celebrate July 4th with my friends at a barbecue at their house. They’ll serve hot dogs and hamburgers, deviled eggs, corn and potato salad. I’m guessing that same menu is probably being repeated all over the country today. I know I’ll smell the barbecues in my neighborhood come afternoon. As for me, I’m partial to those deviled eggs.

When I was a kid, I remember sitting on my back steps watching the fireworks burst high in the sky. They were from the next town over which had a parade in the afternoon and fireworks at night. We always went to the parade. My father’s friend had a house right on the parade route, and that’s where we spent the day, on his huge front porch. It was always filled with kids and adults jockeying for seats. The parade seemed to last for hours back then with its bands and floats and militiamen playing fifes and drums. We clapped and cheered. The front screen door slammed every few minutes as someone headed to the kitchen for food or another drink. We had popsicles in so many colors and flavors. On the driveway, on the side of the house, the grill was always on and hot dogs and hamburgers were cooked throughout most of the afternoon as the chef tried to keep ahead of the hungry crowd.

When I was around thirteen, I started marching in that parade with my drill team. When we rounded the corner, I could see the familiar white house with the huge front porch. As we marched by the house, everyone on the porch yelled my name. I tried to be so military, but I always smiled, a beaming smile.

“Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more,”  The Virginia Gazette, written after the first anniversary celebration, 1777

Happy July 4th!

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