Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

 (Mt. Rushmore, SD.  Photo by Lauren Himiak,

I love the Fourth of July.  So many memories, so much to think about, so much to be thankful for, and so much to enjoy in the moment.  Here are some of my favorite Independence Day memories:

When I was little, I think not quite 4, we lived in a small town in Pennsylvania.  They did their July 4th fireworks display over a local park, where my parents played tennis in the summer, and took us to the playground in all seasons, and took us sledding in the winter.  The park had a street on one side with a grassy slope leading down to the playing areas.  We'd bring some blankets, a big insulated thermos of lemonade, and popcorn in a big, brown paper bag, with paper cups to scoop it out for my sister and I.  It seemed that the sun would never set, and that the fireworks would NEVER start - 9:15 seemed like an awfully late hour to me at that age, and waiting was sweet frustration.  My sister and I would amuse ourselves by rolling down the hill in the prickly-tickly fresh-mown grass, and climb all over my Dad, dragging him back and forth between the playground and the blankets that marked "our spot."  The occasional firefly-chase just added to the excitement.  We could hear smaller fireworks crackling the in the town around us.  Finally the first muffled thwump and a faint glow ascending into the twilight then exploding into Disney color would signal the beginning of the big fireworks.  We'd lay back on the blanket, munching popcorn and drinking lemonade, and watch the display.  Sometimes the louder concussions made me nervous, but my Mom made a game out of it, counting the boom-bangs  (the concussion/flash, then the bright sparkly explosion).  Ever since then, my family has called fireworks "boom bangs!" for the younger kids. (One other Fourth of July we celebrated there it rained.  Why Mom and Dad took us in the rain, I have no idea.  I remember being very soggy and grumpy before the fireworks started, lol.  But we survived that one too!)

Quite a few years later, I was almost 14, we were on a long family vacation over the Fourth.  We had taken a month-long cross-country road trip, starting in Ohio and going down to Nogales and Carlsbad, NM, up through Albuquerque and Santa Fe and Sedona, then over to Arizona (Grand Canyon),  up through Utah (Painted Desert, Great Salt Lake), Idaho and Wyoming (Yellowstone), and then heading back through South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore) and on home.  We were at Mt. Rushmore on the 4th of July, and were staying in Custer, SD.  (I know my Dad must have visited the Custer Battle Site, but I don't have any memory of it, which I find strange.)  I do remember being totally blown away by the scale of Mt. Rushmore.  It was incredibly humbling.  I had, and still have, never seen anything like it.  That evening, in Custer, they had a wonderful fireworks display in a large, flat, open field.  I remember there being lots of RVs and campers of all descriptions, kids running everywhere, sparklers and firecrackers going off near and far.  It was a really great display, too.  The sky seemed so huge. . . .

Just a couple years ago we enjoyed our first 4th of July in our new home in Central NY.  We didn't go to any of the big displays on the 4th itself - we were still wiped out from the move, and didn't want to deal with traffic around Syracuse.  But, we found out that Sylvan Beach on Oneida Lake puts up a display each year, and this year (for some reason I can't remember) it was going to be on July 5th instead of the 4th.  We live pretty close to Sylvan Beach, so we packed up the kids, some drinks and snacks and a blanket, and headed for the beachfront.  We parked in a residential area and walked to a park with a small beach within 100 yards of Sylvan Beach itself.  We watched the sun set over the lake while the kids waded, and we watched small boats go in and out through the canal and marina near us.  Many boats were sitting out on the lake, to watch the display.  It was a gorgeous evening.  Finally the fireworks started, set off from a barge moored offshore from the amusement park.  It was a real treat to see the display from fairly close, with an unobstructed view over the lake.  The concussions echoed off the hills and reverberated across the water, and the display was reflected in the waves.  Tonight we're going back there again, and I'm really looking forward to it - it's supposed to be another beautiful evening.  I'll have our supplies packed:  camp chairs, drinks and snacks, camera, bug spray. . . .

Happy Independence Day, friends!  I hope you make some good memories, and remember everyone who has given their all so we could enjoy our freedom tonight.