Happy Independence Day! July Fourth is one of my favorite days of the year, ranking right up there with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I love the patriotic music, reading of the Declaration of Independence, decorations, parades, twinkling sparklers, and spectacular fireworks. The Fourth holds many memories for me; I’d like to share my early remembrances of the day.
Many of my childhood July Fourths were spent at my paternal grandmother’s house in Greenwood Lake, New York. My family often took the forty-minute ride to visit Grandma at her two-bedroom home, which my grandparents bought in 1939 as a summer cottage (my grandmother turned it into her year-round residence after my grandfather died in 1958). I remember the New Year’s Days when we’d drive Grandma home after she spent the Christmas week with us. The October weekends when we’d do the fall cleanup of her yard and gutters. We’d stay the night, which was a real treat. I’d sleep in the kitchen, on a cot set up between the stove and sink (I’d love to tell you I woke in the morning to the aroma of cinnamon buns baking in the oven, but that perfect touch never happened). The house was so small, when my father’s brother, Marty, his wife, Lynn, and their five kids visited from Delaware every July Fourth week, my cousins Robin and Martin would pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep there every night.
On Independence Day, my parents, siblings, and I would arrive at the crowded house around lunchtime. After eating sandwiches and my grandmother’s potato salad, we’d pack into a couple of cars for the two-minute drive down to the marina where my uncle docked his boat. Once we were all aboard and settled, Uncle Marty would cruise through the arm of the lake at the mandated slow speed to avoid making waves. I vividly remember how long it seemed to take to get to the main part of Greenwood Lake and the moment when Uncle Marty could put the pedal to the metal and get the wind whipping through our hair. It only took two or three minutes to pass through the arm, but to a kid, it seemed like an eternity.
We’d motor around the lake for a couple of hours, always stopping at the sandbar for a swim. Then we’d head back to the house for a barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers topped with slices of tomatoes from my grandmother’s garden and a Neapolitan ice cream dessert. After darkness fell, we’d return to the village for the fireworks show. Our family would join many others on a grassy incline beside the lake and watch the beautiful display light up the night sky and reflect in the tranquil water. A superb ending to a perfect day.
My dad had a favorite expression: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” It didn’t get any better than those July Fourths we celebrated at Greenwood Lake.
It was an idyllic place. An innocent time. A date that was special even before the red, white, and blue decorations, parades, and fireworks were added. I hope your memories of the Fourth of July are as sweet as mine, and I hope you are creating new ones today.