Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence Day, The Heart of Summer

We have officially arrived at the heart and soul of summertime. Independence Day. The Fourth of July. Hard to believe it is here already. It is sad to think that the kids have only been out of school just a mere couple of weeks. And now we are on the verge of celebrating the birthday of our country with cookouts, beach trips, fireworks, parades, and the colors of our nation's flag.

I love family traditions. So many memories are wrapped in the traditions and yearly rituals surrounding our favorite holidays and family birthdays. As I look back over the years, I find it interesting that these traditions that I am so fond of have changed, and finally morphed into something entirely new for my family. I guess that is the beauty of growing up. I learned the beauty of family, have some awesome memories, and can now create new ones with my own kids.

When I was a kid, my favorite way to celebrate the Fourth of July by actually starting the family revelries on the Third of July. We would drive to my Grandparents' house in Chelmsford, Ma. We would then venture to the center of town where the Chelmsford town fair was held. I loved when we parked in the bank parking lot (the Lowell 5, I think?) and walking to the "fair grounds". We would always pass by the Hot Air Balloon first. There were always giving rides, but we never got one. Secretly, I always sort of hoped we could. We would wander about the fair grounds and always make a visit to the Town Hall where my Grandmother was always entered in the art fair. She won ribbons multiple times, but I cannot remember for which paintings and what the honor was. I just remember that she won, and it made me proud. Usually after a day of wandering, listening to the bands play, and even dancing in the center of town (this is where my love for the Glenn Miller Band was born...) we would then retreat to my Grandparents' place and play with sparklers until we were tired and piled onto the pull out couch in front of Nick at Nite for some I Love Lucy, or some other classic wonder of television.

The Fourth of July always found us at the parade in Chelmsford. Although there was always so many people we had to park a few miles (or what seemed like a few miles) away from the parade route, we always loved the walk to find a place along the road. I don't know how, but we always managed to find a place right on the edge of the road, close enough that we could both see the huge clown on the tiny motorcycle and be in the direct line of candy projectiles. Awesome. The parades in Raymond never seemed to compare.

I am not quite sure when these traditions changed into new ones. I would like to say it happened when my Grandparent's moved into their beautiful new place, but I think it was some time before then. Somehow, over the years, we stopped all gathering in once place. Each of us moved on with your lives as we grew up. I got married and had children. So did one of my sisters. One of my brothers eventually got married and moved far away with his new wife. With each of us living new lives, it became harder and harder to get together, so we all began to start our own new traditions.

For our family, it has become a new tradition for us to spend the Fourth of July on one of the beaches near our house. You can see Martha's Vineyard in the distance from the beach. The kids love playing in the sand and blowing bubbles until it grows dark and the fireworks begin. We don't go to any parades around here, because we live in a tourist destination and the streets become nearly impossible to travel. So, we have made Independence day something to be celebrated al fresco with a beautiful view. As my children get older, they look forward to our very special beach day that is topped with musical fireworks.

As we celebrate this day that is the crown of Summertime, it is important to remember what this day represents. Independence Day marks the day our nation finally earned and won our independence as a nation. It is a day that honors those who fought for our freedoms. So here's to another year of picnics, parades, fireworks, and flags. Thanks to all of those who have gone before us and won our rights to be free. Thanks for all the traditions and memories.

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