What’s your most memorable 4th of July family memory?
We may celebrate at a lake, at the beach, in a backyard or at a neighborhood park. It’s always a day for family and friends to gather. No matter what was going on in other parts of the world (see newspaper article from 1940 below), this holiday was celebrated to remind us of the freedoms we enjoyed at home.
My grandparents owned a large property with some 80 summer rental cottages, about two hours north of New York City. Many of the same families returned year after year, and we became a close group as we grew up together.
My grandmother organized the two main summer events: 4th of July at the season's opening, and the Labor Day festivities in early September, signaling the end of our carefree summer, returning to the city and getting ready for school.
In the faux Tudor “big house,” Grandma's big country kitchen sported a black cast iron stove, the source of everything delicious! Every year, she produced buckets of the most delicious coleslaw, potato and macaroni salads.
She roasted turkeys, cooked cornbeef and roast beef, made huge pots of the most delectable stuffed cabbage (not exactly a 4th of July food, but certainly a requirement for the family’s Eastern European origins). She made her own pickles, but began to buy them to save time.
All the cousins, aunts and uncles came for the weekend to enjoy the holiday and help out. Everyone had a job to do, and big kitchen table and long counters were always filled with platters and people working away to get things ready.
On the playground at the center of the property, long tables with red-and-white checked cloths were covered in platters and bowls of salads, breads, meats, huge sliced watermelons, trays of brownies and cakes. The roaring grill sat off to the side - manned by the male relatives - who offered up juicy hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, and all the traditional garnishes. No one ever went hungry at this event!
At night, some of the lakefront hotels provided fireworks displays, sometimes we arranged them on our property's baseball field.
When our daughter was young and we lived in Los Angeles, we would drive to the top of the hill at Pierce College to watch the fireworks. We'd park at the top, almost under the fireworks staging area, where everyone sat on the hoods and roofs of their cars, the air was smoky and the noise was loud! During the day, we’d have a barbecue pool party, with all kinds of Persian kababs.
Usually, the holiday is a long weekend, with either a Friday or Monday off. This year, the 4th of July is a Wednesday, smack in the middle of the week, so there’s no long weekend.
The memories of all these holidays all seem to roll into one. We remember delicious food, loud fireworks, the oohs and ahhs in reaction to the colored displays, the sparklers in the hands of young children. By the time the fireworks ended, most of the children were already asleep after a long day of fun.
Unfortunately, this year in New Mexico, Colorado and other states, the drought is severe and many localities have banned fireworks to avoid possible fires. However, even if we can't see them in person, we can watch the major displays on television, such as those of New York City and the Boston Pops.
No matter how you mark the holiday today, think back to your childhood celebrations, and share those family memories with your family and friends. What's your favorite 4th of July memory? Share your story with us in the comments below or on Facebook.