Treasured July 4th Memories: Time Changes, but Doesn’t Erase them.
Fourth of July was yesterday and pretty soon will be officially “over.” For now, I am still vibrating with the joy of celebration. Hard to believe another one has come and gone.
In my little seaside town, a lot of things have changed, but some have not. More than anything, the July 4th spirit is alive and well.
The July 4th’s of my childhood through my teenaged years began around the 2nd and culminated on the 4th. We roamed the town freely in search of whoever had enough ingenuity to buy the illegal fireworks, light them off, and not get caught by the police. And yes, we had an exit plan.
It’s not like fireworks are subtle.
Sadly, the July 3rd bonfires on the beach are a thing of the past. It’s a little too much celebration for the police and fire department’s to handle two days of madness in a row and one of the things I miss the most.
The freedom of a beach donned with bonfires on a hot July 4th evening is like your first sleepover at your best friend’s house or a date on a Saturday night with your first real crush: there’s nothing else like it.
We still have the Horribles’ Parade, named as such because you can do a horrible costume and just jump in at the last minute. And some of the faces are on the ghoulish side. There are prizes for scariest, funniest, most patriotic and most original. All ages enter and watch.
My family is making plans to enter next year.
Up until the age of 10, the carnival came to town. We’d saved our allowances and begged an additional dollar so we could spend an afternoon on the rides. Two and half bucks would last you hours.
The carnival was also the source of the July 4th fireworks display. But 9:00 was bedtime, so we’d be in our pajamas, teeth brushed, and ready for bed. We’d crawl onto the roof of dad’s old station wagon, eyes turned upward, gasping in awe.
Or screaming in terror, depending on the age.
When the carnivals ended, so did the town fireworks. For a number of years we went different places to watch them. The we reached a new milestone: drivers’ licenses, and we hatched a new plan.
As the Boston Pops warmed-up for the 1812 Overture, we jumped in the car and made it into Boston and to the top of the Mass. General Hospital parking garage in a little over 10-minutes.
We had an unobstructed view of Boston’s fireworks, complete with music and without the crowd on the Esplanade.
What hasn’t changed?
Fireworks. They are still illegal and as rampant as ever.
There’s no shortage them. Stand on any beach, face any direction and you’ll be treated to a display. The neighbors had fabulous ones, though it got a little dicey when the tide started to come in, less beach to light them off, and a couple whizzed through the backyard a few feet over our heads.
The town has had its own display for several years and they are always scheduled to begin at 9:00. Approximately. Last night was a record: 9:20 P.M.
But I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.
Somethings are the way they have always been for years. Sometimes for a lifetime, or so it seems. And then we pause, lift our heads, and notice that the landscape has been reconfigured a bit.
Like the fireworks throughout the years.
This change may be temporary or it may be a preview of times to come or reruns of times gone by.
What cannot be replaced are the people who are no longer here.
The 4th of July was always my mother’s favorite holiday. To my way of thinking, it still is. She has been gone 21 years now, having passed away one week short of her beloved 4th of July.
She loved the fact that we had company for the day, that people arrived with food, we barbequed, lit off our illegal fireworks and then enjoyed a fabulous display without leaving the yard. She loved it even more if the tide was in for swimming.
It was all this and one more crucial fact: she didn’t have to do anything. This was the one holiday that mom didn’t have to cook, the one time that she did absolutely nothing except talk to people all day long.
Can’t say I blamed her. And we were glad for the break as well. Cooking wasn’t mom’s strong point.
My father is also gone.
He enjoyed the 4th for the celebration, the people and the activity, but not so much the fireworks. On July 5, 1943, his destroyer was torpedoes and sunk in the Pacific, Kula Gulf to be exact. He always said that, that was all the fireworks he needed to see for the rest of his life.
I cannot look out over the ocean without seeing dad’s bright orange sail tacking expertly back and forth in the harbor. He did this until he no longer had the balance to pull and hold up that sail: 85 years old.
It was another time. Another change, but it lives on in my memory.
The years have transformed things, but it has also kept the traditions in tact. We still have the 4th of July party, courtesy of my sister who bought the house.
It’s a continuation or a reboot of times gone by, new people, different food, but the same energy.
Time renews and refreshes, and graciously replaces the old with the new. It fills the voids and create new memories, like a dance, first following, then leading.
If you think about it, without change, that driving force, there wouldn’t be a 4th of July holiday. The insignificant servants of King George III would never had overthrown the British Empire, the mightiest power in the world, and started their own country.
And without change, the United States and Great Britain wouldn’t have joined together to fight and defeat Nazi Germany.
So as I settle into the peace and quiet of the night after and put my fingers to the keyboard, I take note of all that has changed, what is the same and what is, only different.
Look around and be mindful. Commit it to memory.
Memories can be as real in hindsight as they are the first time you physically experience them. We so often replay the bad stuff, the mistakes, but we can also relive and cherish the joyful times.
They are as tangible as photographs and videos, complete with the energy of the moment.
They are there for the taking and for adding to all the happiness we’ll experience.
Savor the time and the people now, commit them to memory, and store the images in your heart.
Time will always move on.
So take your memories with you.