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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Remembering an Old Fashioned Independence Day


This post was brought back by popular demand...


Fourth of July is almost here and I'm brought back to my childhood  when  Independence Day was one of the biggest outdoor family celebrations we shared.  Looking through my childhood eyes, I see our yard which was actually huge because the first five houses on our block were all family, and we had no fences between our homes.  For years, we had a swing set in our yard and my cousins next door had the pool in theirs.  If we all came out of our houses at the same time, there were almost 20 people already.  What a great set-up for an instant party and BBQ!


Mid-morning my uncles are getting the grill ready which is really half of on old metal garbage can from the alley with a huge grate on top.  The smells of lighter fluid along with chicken, beef, sausage, burgers, and hot dogs waft  through the air for hours.  Being of Italian decent, food is always a big deal and no meal is complete without  some form of pasta ... even a BBQ!  Of course, that is prepared in the house not on the grill or the spaghetti would fall through the grates.


While the adults are hustling and bustling, cooking and setting up, I hear two big splashes.  I look up to see two huge watermelons floating in the pool.  These are scheduled to eat after lunch.  The tables are decorated with patriotic red, white, and blue and the long table by the side of our house is the one that will have the food on it.  Two other tables are set up side by side on my cousin's patio so we can all eat at one time.


With the delicious smells encircling us and the increasing heat of the afternoon, it seems like we will never eat lunch.  But finally, my uncles take the last of the hot dogs off the grill and the spaghetti is brought out.  Lunch is finally ready!  We get our food buffet-style, but sit down together and eat as a family.  What took hours to prepare is gobbled up in a matter of minutes.  Though we all eat too much, the watermelons are fished out of the pool and sliced up for all of us to enjoy.  What's a summertime picnic without delicious,  juicy, sweet watermelon(even if they've been floating in the pool for half of the day...what did we know?)



Now it's coming...the best time of the day for me.  Anticipation mounts because as we finish with the watermelon and the ladies start to bring the food in the house, everyone knows it's coming.  How it will start this year no one knows, but we all begin to eye each other skeptically.  A short time passes as the food clean up continues,  and then out of the corner of my eye I see my uncle coming out of his house with my aunt's underwear over his clothes.  That's not what we are waiting for, but he has us all in stitches!  Uh oh...this is a ruse!  Here it comes...my uncle starts running and others join in and they take the most unsuspecting victim and toss them right into the pool - clothes and all!  YEA!  It's official...the annual water-fight has begun.  There are no rules now except Grandma does NOT go in the pool!  Everyone else is fair game.  Hoses are being turned on too.  There are over two dozen people running around throwing water, throwing people in the pool and having  a great time.  How do we know when the water-fight is over...most everyone is in the pool with their clothes on!  This year while we are all in the pool we decide to make a whirlpool.  Round and round we go until we can just float in a circular pattern with the force of the water we created.  What a great afternoon!


Eventually we drag ourselves out of the water and have some down time.  We put on dry clothes, clean up our fun, and believe it or not, so much time has passed it's time to get ready for dinner!  Out comes the left-over food from the afternoon and anything left that needs to be heated up on the grill.  Dinner is not as formal as lunch, but we all make sure we have enough to eat. 


As darkness begins to set in and chairs are set up audience-style the grand finale of the day is about to begin.  FIREWORKS!  First we, the kids, are given sparklers to run around with while the men set up the "acme fireworks display".  Then we are given punks to light.  We're told it's to keep mosquitoes away, but we don't care about that.  They're just fun to play with at night. 

It's a little after 9 p.m. and the show is about to begin.  The first fireworks are okay, making more noise than anything else, but we learned years ago after every firework we all let out a collective "ooohhh.....ahhhhh" before going to the next one.  The fireworks show gradually gets better not with just more noise but with colors bursting in the sky way above our heads.  Now the "oooohhhs and ahhhhhhs" aren't for show, they're for real!  I sit enjoying myself with my punk in my hand and my head tilted upwards.  I don't know how much time has passed, but I don't want the show  to end. Soon, there's a pregnant pause while my uncles, not too surreptitiously, set up the grand finale.  I wait patiently and then I see my uncle light a row of wicks and run out of the way.  BOOM!  BOOM! BOOM! is all I hear and the sky is lit up beautifully.  Everyone is clapping now thrilled with the events of the day and sad it's already over.


Well I can't wait until next year, but for now this little girl is going to go to sleep where dreams of food, fun, and fireworks await her.
Have Safe and Happy 4th of July Everyone!

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