This week, our resident hound asked about Fourth of July celebrations. Specifically, about large celebrations with extended family. When I first noted the topic, I thought this would be an extremely short post, because I have very few extended family members who are Americans. Other than one uncle and two cousins, no one outside my immediate family would have any reason to celebrate the American Independence. I have vague memories of my brothers and me standing in our yard twirling sparklers around. Other than our parents, no one else was there. We didn’t travel anywhere to see fireworks.
When I went to college, I spent two summers taking classes in Illinois, so of course I was away from my family. I spent the morning of the holiday marching in a parade with the Bloomington Municipal Band.
After college, my membership in the musician’s union earned me a spot in various band performances during the summer, including fireworks concerts at a nearby lake. Sometimes members of my family would join the crowds assembled to watch the concerts and the fireworks display afterward.
When I married, my extended family grew, but not by much. My husband’s family is small (he has one brother), and his local extended family consisted only of two aunts. Everyone else lived in either Indiana or Arizona. We never got together for the Fourth of July. We took our kids to see local fireworks displays, but that was the extent of our celebration. One year, my brother and his wife brought their girls to Grand Rapids for the holiday and we watched the city fireworks together.
It wasn’t until our five children grew up and started their own families that our holidays started to become more populated. Our eldest daughter married an energetic and successful businessman who loves to entertain. Around ten years ago, they began to throw Fourth of July parties at their home. Everyone brought a dish to pass, but the gathering wasn’t just about food. They hired a band, had activities and goodie bags for all the children, set up lawn games for the older kids and adults, and arranged for things like a popcorn wagon one year and a chocolate fountain the next year. Scott, our son-in-law, enjoys setting off fireworks, and he embraced the opportunity to host a party to which EVERYONE was invited – family, co-workers, friends, and friends of friends! He has a large extended family, all of whom live nearby, so it’s fortunate that they own several acres of land for their annual bash.
The all-inclusive gatherings discontinued when a few people who’d been invited by extended family did some extensive damage to the home’s plumbing (Why would anyone try to flush a diaper?). This year, we have no plans to get together, but our pool and backyard are available in case some of our family want to come and cool off from the record high temps we’re having. Our five children have given us nine grandkids and two great-grandkids, so we’re starting to grow, but for now we enjoy still being able to remember everyone’s names.