“Hey Ma, remember that time we had to leave the park because everyone was screaming? I mean like really SCREAMING? Remember that Ma?” Why yes, yes I do. That was July 4th last year. The triplets were three, our daughter was five, and our oldest fella was seven. They were overtired, overheated, possibly dehydrated and likely malnourished. Eight hours in and out of pools and parades with little sustenance beyond watermelon and popsicles will do that to a kid. And then, boom! Boom, BOOM, BOOM!!!!
Fireworks. Who would do that to five tired tots in the name of independence? We would. And it seems they will never forget it. Never ever in their whole lives.
This is especially troubling to me because I adore July 4th. I grew up in a town that has a stellar parade. The type of parade that draws a crowd from all over the great Garden State but features floats from small-town elementary schools. The type of parade that is SO good that the locals line the streets with their chairs the night before to secure a good viewing. It’s a parade filled with marching bands, floats and fire trucks. It’s a parade that I marched in as a kid and insist on dragging our kids to even as they whine that it’s too hot, too loud or even too boring — am I the only one with kids who are constantly bored?!
My Dad loves July 4th as much as I do. I think of it as his day. He grew up in the charming village where I was raised and shares many of the same memories. I remember my uncles arriving with donuts for the little ones and big coolers of beer for the post-parade party. They would come early in the morning for a party that lasted late into the evening. My Dad would man the grill for hours and in fact, he still does. After the parade, there is swimming and lunch and watermelon, possibly followed by more swimming, a nap by the pool or preparing for the evening’s grand event – you guessed it, fireworks.
My parents have the perfect location for the day — and the night. Their house sits at the end of the parade route and caddy-corner to the park where the masses gather to watch the fireworks. It is the Shangri-La of the 4th of July. For me, the day is like Christmas, but better because even though we get to see family, friends and neighbors, there’s no pressure to buy gifts, bake cookies or dress up. It is low-key, laid back and a day that I anticipate eagerly each year… and unfortunately, a day that our kids are now dreading!
I know they will outgrow their fear of fireworks and hope that one day they will look back on July 4th as fondly as I do. I hope they think “Wow. What fun we had. How awesome it was to be there with Mom and Dad and Mima and Pop-Pop and aunts and uncles and cousins with all the flags and fireworks and fun.” I hope they learn to appreciate freedom and independence in all of its forms. Perhaps most of all, I hope they will put a chair out for me so I will always have a good spot to watch the parade!