During this season of parades, fireworks, picnics and watermelon, I can’t help reminiscing about the 4th of July celebrations my family shared when I was growing up.
I grew up on a dairy farm where the life of family was focused on the farmwork, housework and never-ending chores. We all worked hard. There were never days that we didn’t have some work to do because the cows had to be milked morning and night, the animals had to be fed and the barn had to be cleaned even on special occasion days. There was time for fun but as kids we always looked forward to the special days where there would be bigger reprieves from all of the work.
The 4th of July was one of the favorite days of the summer because other than the mandatory daily chores, we took time off. It wasn’t always easy if the hay was dry and needed to be harvested before rain came. Of course, as children we could care less about the crops. We wanted to have the fun that the Independence Day celebration would be sure to bring.
My small home town had a parade at noon complete with the high school marching band, floats, horses and the American Legion post proudly marching. The legion post was a rather ragtag group wearing incomplete uniforms that had grown too tight. They could barely march in step but they were so proud to display that they had served their country. We kids scrambled to get candy that was thrown out by the parade participants. It was always a bit of a contest to see who would get the most.
We were 4-H kids, and every year our club built a float for the parade. Our floats made of crepe paper and chicken wire always seemed somewhat flimsy and poorly constructed. Every year we tried our best. There was one club that always seemed to win first prize–their float seemed professionally constructed next to most of the other amateur attempts. Although as I grew older I knew many kids in their club I never figured out why their float was so good year after year.
After the parade there would be opportunities to hang out at the village park. Sometimes we would take in a baseball game. When we were young we stuck to our brothers and sisters but as we got older we might escape from the family in order to hang out with friends. Because we were so busy on the farm it seemed like the 4th of July was one of the few times during the whole summer when we might see our school friends. After the parade, we might spend an hour or two in town but then it was back to the farm, perhaps to make the hay if it was ready and certainly to do the other chores. As we got a little older we may have been allowed to stay in town with a friend.
In the early evening we kids would light some sparklers. My family never invested in any fireworks other than the sparklers. After milking the family piled back in the car and drove back into town to watch the fireworks. We oohed and aahed at the beautiful sights.
Looking back at those July 4th celebrations, they seem almost simplistic but to us it was the highlight of the summer. There was certainly a bit of innocence at the time. We were before the time of special effects and electronics. What gave us so much joy 50 years ago would probably seem mundane and commonplace today. To us it was special indeed.
This year without having kids around, I expect to spend the 4th of July mostly in relaxation. We will grill hamburgers and have a picnic type feast. In the evening we are likely to sit out on the deck and possibly see some fireworks set off in the neighborhood. That might seem too boring for people who crave activity and action, but tht is how I am most content.
Happy Independence Day to all.