We never paid all that much attention to the 4th of July when we were in Costa Rica. It’s not that there weren’t opportunities including the huge production of the annual picnic put on by the American Colony Committee (which we never attended); it just never “connected” in any strong way for us. Even in Maine, we primarily paid attention to the 4th as being the start of real summer and celebrated by spending the day in the pool.
(When we first moved to Maine from Texas, we had Memorial Day parties for many years since in Texas that was the start of serious summer. In Maine, though, Memorial Day was as likely as not damp and chilly, and our big “summer” parties almost always consisted of everyone crammed into the house, huddled around the fireplace eating their “picnic” food. It took us a slightly embarrassing number of years before it sank in that this wasn’t a fluke, but rather the norm and we finally switched our big “summer party” to the 4th. Sometimes we’re slow learners.)
So, here we are, back in the USA for the 4th of July and it was really quite wonderful, albeit in a quiet sort of way. Our friends Chris and Louise are here with us and Mom’s day care center was closed for the holiday, so we decided we’d just “brave the crowds” and take in some of the local festivities over at Founder’s Park here in Centerville. We gathered hats, water bottles, applied our sunscreen of choice, loaded Mom’s wheelchair into the car, and attempted a sneak approach on the park by coming at it from the backside.
To our delight, we did find a parking spot in the nearest block possible, and were able to take the wheelchair easily down the closed-off street leading to the park, so it all worked very easily. The park was rimmed with tents offering all manner of festival food — although no corn dogs, which is really the only thing I’d been craving — and a barbershop quartet was singing in the gazebo.
Mom and I hung out in the gazebo while the rest of the gang checked out the offerings in the tents. In the absence of the longed-for corn dogs (what can I say, it’s the “fair food” of my youth) we all eventually just gathered up again at the gazebo and enjoyed the rest of the concert, including standing tall and frankly proud with the rest of the crowd, hats off, hands over our hearts, for the final song, The Star Spangled Banner. Louise and I revealed our softer sides by sniffling through that one — okay, I was out-and-out crying — and feeling a certain unexpected tenderness at being back in my homeland.
As an aside, I’d never felt much of an identity as an “American” until I moved to Canada, nearly thirty years ago, and suddenly was “the other” — someone “from away” — and discovered that, there, I was indeed thought of as “the American.” Or, actually, “the Yank” — a term that as a southerner threw me completely off since the only “Yankees” I was familiar with were my northern aunts, uncles, and cousins, and applying the term to everyone south of the Canadian border was a new one for me! The first time someone asked me if I were a Yank, I didn’t know how to answer. But, I digress.
After the singing ended, the police auction started, and we stayed around for a bit of that just for amusement’s sake. We live in a small town (of around 16,000) with minimal crime, so this isn’t your sort of auction filled with drug dealers’ Ferraris and the like. Chris did have his eye on a nice set of binoculars that actually came up first, but bidding went hot and heavy on those and quickly surpassed the price he was willing to pay.
But a couple of kids’ bikes found new owners at real bargain prices, somewhat bizarrely there was a brand new pair of men’s sneakers for sale, and after a half-dozen items, we slipped away and headed home where I fixed some excellent blue-cheese burgers. (They were almost assuredly better, by far, than the desired corn dogs although I’m now on a bit of a mission for those. The country fair comes up next month, and I’ll bet they have them there!)
After a quiet afternoon (working on the computer, but no complaints) we had another excellent meal — the all-American grilled steak, baked potatoes cooked in the coals, corn on the cob, and strawberry shortcake. Around 9:30, as dusk settled in, the low booms of fireworks started up, and we spent almost the next full hour out on the deck watching a dazzling array of fireworks spread up and down the valley. We’ve got a wide view, nearly 180-degrees from north, out to the west, to the south, and at one point we counted over twenty separate fireworks shows we could see. (If you could have somehow also magically extinguished all the lights throughout the valley and ONLY had the fireworks, it might have been too spectacular to even stand.)
Interestingly, the shows were all quite “simple” by the standards that have become accepted as the norm in most big cities. But we oohed and ahhhed and appreciated them much more, I suspect, than we would have had we been watching one of those huge extravaganzas that seems to be expected these days. Somehow, these shows seemed to have a much more “human” scale and we were completely delighted.
All together, it made for a superb first Fourth to be back in the U.S. It was a simple day, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.