HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
The 4th of July has always been a special day for our family/extended family, in fact, the whole month of July was celebrated. My aunt, Sister, was born on the 4th. Actually, her name was Cora (as a child I thought it was the ugliest name I’d ever heard but now I think it is quite lovely) but she NEVER allowed us to call her that, only Sister. Daddy and Sam called her Cora, but they were the only family members allowed to. I remember calling her Aunt Cora once and her head spun like Reagan’s in The Exorcist. I never did that again.
Now why I called her “Aunt” is beyond me because I never called any of my aunts and uncles by that honorific, they were always just Lucy, Floyd, Bobbie, Stan, Elmer, Maggie etc. Ooops. Somehow I digressed. Daddy, Laura and Ruthie’s birthdays were in the middle of July, one right after the other. Since birthdays were cause for celebration you can see how it was just one big party after another.
Depending on our ages, and later, the ages of our children, most of the Big 4th of July Spectaculars were held around the pool. From bright and early in the morning until time for fireworks, there would be a horse shoe game going. Daddy loved horse shoes. None of those safety first rubber or plastic abominations either. Just real, hard, ringing horse shoes circling a real, metal stake. The biggest draw back to his game was that the stakes never both seemed to be pulled from the ground until at least one toe was broken (or at least felt like it) from running into one or Mother fell over it.
There was shuffle board on the patio and a the ping pong table. Depending on the year there was either live music because someone brought a guitar or records. As usual, if there was music, there was going to be some dancing going on too. There was food, dear Lord, was their food. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, slaw, potato salad, real honest baked beans, other salads, cakes, pies, cookies. Every one would bring huge bowls or platters of something wonderful.
As a kid, when Ruthie would make her world famous ice cream, and Sam was hand cranking the churn, we would fight over who got to sit on the towel covered top. Sam would sneak us chunks of ice covered in ice salt. Yum! Now that I think about it, ewwww groossssss. Bear in mind this was the man who was a dairy inspector for the Health Department. He would not allow us to drink certain brands of milk because he had not inspected their dairy farms. Nor would he (much to mine and Laura’s embarrassment) eat in a strange dinner without checking the health inspection certificate or if he was really unsure, the kitchen itself. But ice cream ice covered in God knows what and salt. That was a treat.
And the fireworks. Oh. My. Goodness. We were not city folk but rather lived on top of a hill with a long, long dirt driveway and plenty of safe area to stage a spectacular show (The hose was always on and out, just in case). We had a family friend who always had a firework stand so you can just imagine. And of course, everyone who came brought a load of fireworks too. Depending on our ages and later, the ages of our children, there were firecrackers, rockets, fountains, sparklers and more things that go boom than you can imagine. One year we had lots little kids. That was the year of the snakes (oh my gosh did those things stink). I would be willing to bet there are still traces of where hundreds of those nasty things were lit on the patio. But boy were they ever fun to watch.
Speaking of firecrackers, there was the 4th or maybe before the 4th (I’m old, I lose dates sometimes), we were either on a lake or river somewhere (see above). I must have been around 14 or 15 or there abouts. Mother and Daddy and other adults were on the water and we kids doing what ever kids do, probably laying in the sun growing wrinkles and sun spots. Mother had very carefully put the camera, her clothes and stuff on one of those plastic tubing & aluminum frame lounges so popular once upon a time. Larry had been lighting fire crackers as little boys could do back then. Probably irritating us as only little brothers can irritate their teenage sisters. Then, tragedy struck. He lit a whole, huge string of them. In his panic at the thought of all of them going off at once, he threw the hissing mess away, with them landing under the chaise. The bangs and screams of two girls quickly brought the parents back in time to watch lounge chair, clothes and camera explode. Now you may think Mother’s first concern might have been, “Are you all okay” or at least “What were you thinking?”, but no. “That was my new bra! (which had melted to the chair)” followed by Daddy’s “That was a new camera! (which also suffered serious damage)” Ah, family memories.
But mostly, our celebrations were pure out and out joy. Over the years, traditions and locations changed. Faces changed. People, including myself, moved away and can’t join in like we wish. My brother and sister-in-law, Wesley and Dee, play host and hostess now. There are a couple of new generations to play games, eat, swim and shoot off fireworks there. We take Maddie to the coast for the Fishing Rodeo, Crab Festival and what not then fire works over the water. It’s not the same, but it is our new tradition here in Mississippi. I had to get all nostalgic the other day and cry a bit over celebrations past and the people I loved so much who were part of that and are now gone. So I called Laura so she could cry with me and relive some of those days. We wallowed in melancholy for a bit and then she cheered me up as only she can. Her knee surgery has been so successful and rehabilitation gone so well, that she is going to do our famous Yankee Doodle Dandy patriotic salute, high kicks and all. I do so hope Libby has the camera handy.