|Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers|
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.
When I was a kid we had this Independence Day parade in my neighborhood. It was not the kind of parade that they close streets for and make floats for. It was a cheap, noisy, exuberant celebration of the holiday and our neighbors. We decorated bikes, tricycles, and wagons, and then the whole group of people proceeded to march through the neighborhood throwing confetti, ringing bells, and singing or yelling. It was a celebration of where we lived as much as the holiday. We enjoyed being around the other families in the neighborhood and had a free and fun time.
After the parade, we often loaded up the car and drove off to my grandparents' house. Each year our extended family could depend on two gatherings, one at Christmas and one on July 4th. My grandparents lived in a nice neighborhood which was walking distance from one of the bigger parks in Madison where they set off fireworks. Every year my family had excellent seats for the fireworks in the front yard of my grandparents' house or the balcony. Kids would be running around and we would pig out on the amazing potluck of treats that had been made for that day. Some years a group of us kids would walk with a few of the moms to the park, where they had a carnival. I remember coming back from the carnival with all kinds of junk, which at the time was treasure. I mean, who wouldn't want a big pair of clown sunglasses with flag designs? The best part of these days was just the time spent with family.
As a child, there is nothing better than a free parade followed by a family picnic.
Then, in the summer of 1991, when I was 13, this holiday changed forever. On July 2nd, 1991, my father died. He was at home when he suffered a second heart attack that his pacemaker just couldn't stop. I was the one who called 9-1-1 and watched my mother lose her mind with grief. He was rushed to the hospital but no one could do anything for him at that point. That summer, the 4th of July celebrations did not exist for us. The only thing I remember about the week that this happened is that I went out with some friends to get out of the house for a few hours. We went to a small firework display in a town nearby and all I wanted to do was go home. I think this is why I think of my dad whenever I see fireworks. Independence Day is a lot less fun nowadays.
Today is the 22nd anniversary of my father's death. I cannot believe it has been so long since I last saw him. This week I will celebrate the 4th of July with my sister, her husband, and their baby. I am so excited to share this holiday with them. With a new baby in the family, maybe it is time to start a new tradition. So on Thursday we will cookout, have some beer, and enjoy our time together. Perhaps we will even find some fireworks to watch.
Happy 4th of July Everyone!