Happy Independence Day weekend.
As I’ve written before, the Fourth of July has long been a favored holiday for my family and it brings back many fond memories.
Father’s Day has barely passed, but since Dad passed away in 2013 the Independence Day holiday has seemed a more apt time to celebrate his memory. It includes so many of the things he enjoyed the most: fireworks, parades, picnics, and celebrating our nation’s birth and history with family and friends.
Dad always wanted us to enjoy ourselves on “the Fourth.” But he made sure we understood the importance of its proper Independence Day name. A veteran of the Korean War with brothers who served in World War II and Vietnam, Dad often reminded us freedom isn’t free.
A typical Fourth of July when I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s included a grilled-burger and sauce dogs picnic at either Duck Island or Eastman Cabins. But only after attending the parade. In the earlier years, it also meant a visit I can’t remember where or when fireworks were enjoyed on the Fourth back in those days.
I do know Dad’s love of fireworks began at an early age and was shared by his mother. Well, Momaw enjoyed seeing fireworks displays. Dad apparently started off primarily liking noise and shenanigans with non-visual fireworks. As a child in the Flag Pond community of Lee County, Virginia, Dad and his cousin Claude Osborne infamously put lit firecrackers in the pocket of Claude’s new “jumper jacket” (Mom says this is what an “overall” jacket was called then and there) until the pocket was blown off.
(Dear readers, do not try that at home!)
I remember as a child the Independence Day shooting of Roman Candles on trips to Popie Null’s farm at Flower Gap, and me being mainly satisfied with a couple of boxes of sparklers. I did get in trouble once for sticking a sparkling sparkler through the keyhole to the “middle room” at Popie’s. Apparently the adults saw this as a fire hazard. (Again, don’t try that at home!)
As an adult Dad did love a good fireworks show. Everytime I see one I think of him. So I slow down and enjoy them and make sure not to miss one if I am nearby. On my recent two-week vacation, I saw fireworks shows at least eight nights.
In recent years, Mom and I didn’t attend the Mack Riddle American Legion Independence Day Parade in person, but we do try to catch it on TV if it is broadcast. Our traditions now are pretty low-key. We try to make Dad’s sauce dogs. I bake a lemon-blueberry pound cake. We stand in the front yard for a great view of the fireworks downtown, often with relatives who drop by because we have that view.
For nearly two decades I’ve made an Independence Day habit of watching the 1957 Disney film “Johnny Tremain.” I watch it on VHS, a tape I bought for $ 1.99 in a Florida truck stop in 2002. For a decade or more, I ‘ve watched “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS and / or Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks on NBC. Their broadcasts usually overlap and sometimes have coincided with the fireworks over downtown Kingsport.
Not so this year. The downtown fireworks were Saturday night. A Capitol Fourth and Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks (from New York City) air on television Monday evening.
Enjoy “the Fourth” and remember it’s Independence Day. Relax with family. Have a hot dog and a burger. Do not set off fireworks in your cousin’s pocket. And don’t stick a sparkling sparkler through a keyhole.
That reminds me of another thing about Dad. As I became a teenager with a car and then a college student often traveling, he’d say, “Have fun. But be careful. I know the second part sounds like I don’t mean the first part. But you can figure out how to do both. ”
So. What he said.