Reflections from the Fourth of July: Things that ALWAYS Happen


Growing up, the Fourth of July was the day everyone in my family was expected to drag their asses out of bed and do something patriotic. For me, it was the relay races. All the bitter resentment of never getting the most athletic awards at school brought out in me the ultimate relay race beast. And I was proud of it. I never went a year without medaling. I still have these morsels of accomplishment hanging from my old bowling trophies, because yes, I was once in a bowling league (Fair warning for anyone who ever bowls with me “for fun” in the future).

In Wakefield, MA we had this tremendously loud parade, chalk full of decorated tricycles, little league banners, and baton swinging band geeks in their time of glory. People would leave their chairs overnight on the streets to save seats. You would think these people were preparing to wait all night in line for the new Xbox, but in this case the Xbox was a ridiculously long flow of wailing fire trucks, dancing middle schoolers and retired firemen. So, you can see the appeal.

Inevitably, however, every Fourth, something inexplicably burdensome would happen. Like Grammie falling over at the parade, making it impossible for her to move without her walker, resulting in the entire family circling around her like a life force, charging the crowd like we were the Sharks and everyone else was the Jetts. But this is just one of the many things that happens on the Fourth.

This is what else can happen when you choose to be patriotic and leave your house on the Fourth of July:

  • Someone is going to get really anxious about parking. I can say this with confidence because this person is usually me. But of course, there’s always the worry: we’re not gonna get there on time, we’re gonna miss the fireworks, etc.
  • Someone is going to think they know-it-all about where to park. I dare you to tell me that on the car ride to wherever it is you’re going on the Fourth, there isn’t someone shouting, “we can get closer! I know we can get closer!”
  • Someone is going to have to stop on the way to pee. You’ve already parked your car and now you are walking. As a young girl who grew up with a mother who had Colitis, frequent bathroom breaks are par for the course. It’s either this or listen to your mother complain that she shit her pants. You will decide to stop at McDonald’s in fear of what the porter potties will have in store. There will be a fifteen person line at the McDonald’s women’s restroom. You and your weak-bladdered cohort will be stuck in this line as men briskly walk in and out of their bathroom. You may even explain to the little girl in line in front of you that this is how life will be from here on out — men peeing whenever they want while you, as a female, wait in the line at McDonald’s.
  • You’re going to wish you brought a chair for a moment but on second thought, you’re glad you didn’t have to carry a chair. On the way back to the car, you’ll relish the emptiness of your hands.
  • Someone is going to spill a drink all over the middle of the blanket you are on. Sometimes, this person is you. It is best to be very apologetic and remain calm in this situation just don’t get your hopes up that it will dry in time for the fireworks. You’re better than that.
  • The group you are with will get split up and you will be forced to find them in the middle of the fireworks. There’s nothing easier than finding your way back to a four-person group in complete darkness in the middle of a vast field lined with people on blankets looking up at the sky as fireworks blare overhead. Of course, your group will be reunited just in time to watch the fireworks finale.
  • There will be a baby crying somewhere, loudly, for the entire duration of the fireworks. You will not be upset but rather, amazed at the amount of babies that are not crying as tremendously loud bursts of fire explode in the sky.
  • You will take twenty, blurry, unimpressive, dark pictures of almost fireworks that you will end up deleting that night. You will realize you spent more time trying to take a picture of the fireworks than actually enjoying the fireworks.
...And this was one of the better ones.

…And this was one of the better ones.

  • You will be jealous of all the kids will cool light wands that their parents bought for them. There’s just never a time I don’t want a light wand.
  • The fireworks will end and you will inevitably sigh and think out loud, “that’s it?” It will seem like you got to the park to watch the fireworks like five minutes ago because the show only lasted fifteen minutes. You will make your way like a sheep to the park exit like all the other thousands of people. You will think, “well, what’s more patriotic than sitting in traffic for an hour to get two miles?” 

By the time you get home, the Fourth of July will be over.

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7 responses to “Reflections from the Fourth of July: Things that ALWAYS Happen

  1. Yep. And we’ll do it every year until we die.

  2. all of those things happened last night…. and all of those things happen every single year.

  3. We’re expats living in England. If there is anywhere on the planet that is NOT sympathetic with our desire to celebrate the American Independence Day, this is it. So reading your fabulous post made me cry and laugh and miss the kids decorating their bikes and walking miles to “our” fireworks spot, and everyone in the whole damn field saying “Ahhhh!” at the exact same time — and yes, falling asleep after you’ve been back in your car for an hour and you’re only a block from the fireworks. Loved every word.

    • Thank you so much! There are so many vivid memories for this time of the year, I’m glad they came back for you as well. So happy you enjoyed the post, thanks for your comment. And where in England do you live if you don’t mind me asking? I studied abroad in London for five months — I only made it to the countryside once but I loved every part of the country I got to see.

  4. I’m guilty of several things on your list. And I always have to stop and pee!

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