I like simple things: a cheap glass of wine, a good book, a new picture of my grandchildren and a sturdy lawn chair. I also LOVE the 4th of July. It’s one of my favorite holidays. I love the heat, humidity, picnics, parades, fireworks and time with family.
Each July fourth we load up Sara (my trusty SUV) and head north to the big muddy, the Mississippi river. We have our annual fish fry waterside. My husband, son, nephew and brothers-in-law are all sport-fishing enthusiasts, who do their best to accumulate a sizeable catch. If the catch is small (something a fisherman does not like to discuss) we hit the Piggly Wiggly for fried chicken. The day revolves around good food and conversation.
On the morning of the fourth, we start out with homemade mini donuts deep fat fried on the patio. There is nothing better than a warm donut with your morning coffee!
Midday we heat up the fish fryer and begin breading and cooking the fish. Once it is ready we bring out the corn on the cob, watermelon and a crazy good mixture of midwestern potluck fare. After the fish fry, the kids are busy with squirt guns, swimming, boat rides, jumping off the dock and fishing.
A few years ago we started a new tradition, at dusk we launch Chinese paper lanterns: one for each of the grandchildren. The kids line up by height and the parents help with the launch. Last year, long after the last lantern had flown over the western bluffs, my grandson pointed to the eastern sky and said, look grandma that one made it around the world already!
Meanwhile, a campfire is lit and the adults pull up their lawn chairs. The kids bring out the sparklers, sizzling snakes and their renewed enthusiasm. Sometimes I wonder where they store all that energy. And since we have not eaten enough, the marshmallow forks and pie makers magically appear. We make s’mores, campfire pies and roasted marshmallows before the fireworks begin.
There are several small communities on the big muddy who have fireworks and from our vantage point we can usually see three to four different displays. Sonic booms go on into the wee hours of the night and if the mosquitoes cooperate you can watch the fireworks until almost three in the morning!
I think my favorite part of the holiday is spending time with family. The campfire brings out the stories and the more embarrassing – the better. One of the uncles, who liked his beer, cut down a light pole with his chainsaw because he ran out of firewood for the campfire. On another occasion, he sunk his boat and motor while it was tied to the dock.
We are also very fond of corny jokes. My father in law was a master; he could entertain a crowd for hours. His standard comeback has now become a one liner for his great grandkids. When he was asked, where did you catch that fish? He would reply, I caught him in the lip. It’s really funny when a three year old delivers the punch line.
Hopefully, one of my great- grandchildren will be sitting by a campfire on the banks of the big muddy retelling stories and corny jokes for years to come.
Copyright (c) 2014 story by Sheryl Groen, photo by Emma Palova