Today is turning into one of the best 4th of July holidays ever. I’m home, I’m not exhausted from working, or working on the holiday. I have all the cucumbers I can eat, enough clapshot ingredients for another batch (if you don’t know clapshot it’s a mixture of potatoes and turnips, but I’ve added eggplant to it), and I took time to drive to town to get chicken. I plan to cook it on my Weber Smokey Joe Grill and explain to anyone who stops that No, my house is not on fire. I have to do that at least once every time I grill because the smoke curls under the deck awning and looks like the attic is ablaze.
Holidays are usually a lot more work than this, because if you work for a living you’re trying to pack all you can into your time off, and the 4th is a four day weekend for most people. That means you head out for a short vacation, probably camping at a local park or at least cooking out somewhere, and getting ready for that means just as much work as for a real vacation except that you have less time. Then you tack fireworks onto the day, and by the time it’s dark enough for the Fair people to set them off your kids have been up for about 20 continuous hours and you left your sense of humor at the cotton candy stand.
One of the best things I ever saw on the 4th was not scheduled entertainment. I had gone out with a friend for the day and we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the lake, in the late evening just a couple of hours before the fireworks show started. If you wanted one of the good seats you had to be there that early. This was not an official viewpoint, just a high point on the federal highway, so the good seats were the flat rocks instead of the rocks with the sharp edges. All of them were painful after the first ten minutes, and there wasn’t any place to lie down, or a public toilet if you needed one. Well, it was possible to pee, but it was very public. Most of the people there were families with small children trying to save the price of admission down at the fairgrounds, and the children were understandably anxious to get the show going. Quite a few amateur displays went off at the roadside right behind us, but fortunately none of us downslope from there actually caught fire for long.
As darkness fell, the whole area grew quiet, literally a couple thousand people there, sitting in the cold damp breeze coming off the lake, rationing their drinks so they wouldn’t have to drive to the gas station, and all of us dressed for a hot summer afternoon. None of us had expected winter so soon. We had given up conversation and were just huddling in small groups praying that the curse of darkness would descend and we could soon get out of there.
Out of the hush came a small but strident voice from a young boy seated in between some boulders in wet grass a few yards down the hill from us.
“Momma!” he called out plaintively. “I’m cold. And I’m hungry. I’m tired! I want to go home!”
Slowly, Momma turned to him in the semi-darkness. I could see from her expression that she’d had a hard day providing good memories for her flock.
“Billy,” she said ominously. “We are all cold. We are ALL tired. We are ALL hungry. It’s the 4th of July! so just shut up!”
Laughter and cheers rippled through the audience, and just then in the clammy blackness far below, the first rockets went up. That was also one of the best holidays ever, and not just for Momma’s brilliant speech. That day, it didn’t rain.