Monday, July 6, 2009

Reflections on Independence Day

So I'm a little late for Randy's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun on July 4th, but I thought I'd share a few things anyway.

I remember as a child the 4th of July was just another really hot summer day. The only perk was that my sister and I could stay up really late and watch our town's fireworks from the air conditioned living room. We lived a few miles out of town by road, but as the crow flies (or in our case the river meandered) we were probably a mile and a half to two miles from the town's rodeo/fairgrounds where the fireworks were shot off following a day of demolition derby action in the rodeo arena. I remember that if the (hot) air was blowing just right we could hear the loud crunches of the old beat up cars in the derby. Because my Grandpa Fred farmed and was up at dawn, he'd always go to bed early and us "girls" (i.e. my grandma, mom, sister and I) would stay up late for the fireworks.

When I was in junior high my grandparents had left that small southwest Idaho town for the cooler mountain town of McCall, Idaho. They have a fabulous fireworks display that is set off over Payette lake. It's truly a sight to behold. Because they were no longer visible from home, we convinced Grandpa to load up in the car and drive into town to watch the fireworks. We parked off on a side street and readied our chairs for the show to come. My Grandpa Fred was a real tease and always the first few "test" fireworks that were shot off always got big "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" from him. He loved to see our reaction and we always got some bemused looks from the surrounding families. I even remember one year watching everyone vacate the lakeside park when a streaker ran through the crowd. I guess that's one way to get a better seat for fireworks!

Now that I have children of my own, I remember the delight I felt as a child. This year, we spent our 4th at my mother's home for a BBQ and we walked two blocks over to get a prime seat for the town's parade. This is the second year we have done this and my older daughter LOVES it. The younger one is still a little overwhelmed by it all. They have a good old-fashioned parade with floats, old cars, horses, and the local firetrucks with the firemen spraying the crowd with the fire hose. My daughter's favorite part is the candy she collects during the parade. I assume we will be back next year with our camp chairs in the shade and my daughter's candy bag at the ready.

The one item that was of the genealogical variety on the 4th was when our conversation turned to my Grandpa Fred and how he always would go around teasing, "Gotta get ready for the 4th!" I guess this was something his mother, Kate (Arthur) Harmon, said quite a bit. For their 4th, there was the possibility that relatives from the nearby communities in Clark Co. or Codington Co. South Dakota would come to visit. And I guess the real perk of the day was the trip to town for the block of ice that would later become homemade ice cream. My grandpa Fred and his mother Kate had a terrible sweet tooth. Though he talked about cranking that handle on the ice cream churn, you can bet he was probably the first in line for a taste of the sweet treat.

My memories are always of a simple day spent with family. I am thankful for those forefathers who had the courage to make our independence a reality and for my own ancestors who participated. It is my mission, as a parent, to not only pass along a fun day of memories to my daughters, but to also teach them what makes this day important and how without the courage of those who came before us, July 4th would just be another hot summer day.

1 comment:

  1. Great memories! I love having grown up in a small town and your 4th stories brought back fond memories of my own. :o)