Wednesday, July 4, 2012
The thing I remember most about the 4th of July from when I was a kid is driving somewhere to see fireworks, parking along the side of the road, watching from the hood of the car, and then leaving before the finale so we wouldn't get stuck in traffic. This was not a holiday tradition I wanted to pass along to my own kids. So early on we established a 4th of July tradition we rarely break if we're in town. First, we picnic with friends--the same good friends every year. Then along toward dusk, we caravan down to Memorial Park on the Lake Erie shore in Dunkirk, New York. It's the kind of thing my dad would have hated--you have to park several blocks away and walk the rest of the way; it's crowded, it's loud, the air is sticky with the smell of cotton candy, funnel cakes, and kettle corn; when you finally find a place to spread out your blanket, you're inevitably behind a tree; and when it's over, there's all kinds of traffic and it takes forever to get home. But we return year after year--it's tradition! When the kids were young, we brought a stroller or the wagon, a cooler with juice boxes and snacks (to avoid the high prices and long lines at the street vendors), and a damp washcloth in a plastic bag to wipe faces and hands sticky with the cotton candy they cajoled us into buying anyway. We travel more lightly these days--just a blanket to sit on. We've learned to go later--often arriving just before the first few booms. We've accepted the fact that we'll always be crammed into a crowded spot behind a tree. And sometimes we're missing one or more of the kids. But as long as some of our kids are home on the 4th of July, we'll keep going. And we'll never leave before the finale!