I miss Independence Day in a small town.
I grew up on the edge between two small towns, Highland Park and Deerfield in a little 2-street neighborhood one house away from the main road. We were so close to the border, we were allowed to choose which school district we would attend, so Deerfield it was. My mother grew up just down the street from us and my Nana still lived there.
Each year on the 4th of July we would get up early and make our way down Deerfield road toward town. There were sidewalks on both sides of the 4 lane road and given how close we lived to our destination, it was easier to just walk. About a 1/2 mile or so down the road, along the fence in front of the golf course, we would set up shop with a chair or two. The original folding yard chair with aluminum frame and weaved seats. The kids would sit on the curb – waiting.
We were waiting for the 4th of July Parade. It was a great parade, with the Shriners on little tricycles, bands playing, floats, twirling batons and more. As a little kid, it felt like it went on forever – in a good way. We were set up toward the end of the parade route so the wait seemed like an eternity, but we would run into friends and play chicken in the street to pass the time until the parade came by. Our faces would light up, we would plug our ears at the band and giggle at the clowns on the tiny bicycles and Shriner’s hats.
After the parade, we would walk home and often had a picnic at my Nana’s house. I recall a few years where it was too hot to sit outside, so we would bring the picnic table into the garage to eat in there. My Nana’s garage was so clean, you could eat off the floor. I think my brother Neal still has that picnic table to this day – it has to be at least 60 years old.
Later in the evening after leaving Nana’s we would head one of two places to watch fireworks. Deerfield High School or over to the Ropiquet’s house to watch the fireworks at Sunset Park in Highland Park. When going to the Deerfield HS show, we would bring blankets and be way back from the field. The fireworks were actually set off over the football field and a band played in the stands ahead of time. You had to pay for that seating, so we stayed out of bounds near what became the soccer field later. The Sunset Park show we would set up in the driveway of the Ropiquets as they lived right across the street. This was perfect as there were chairs, no itchy grass and it wasn’t as crowded. In both cases, the fireworks shows were spectacular!
To this day, small towns near where I grew up do their own fireworks shows. Some still do parades. I was recently in Florida where they actually coordinate so one town does them one weekend and another town another day so people can enjoy both. In the more rural area where I am without a center town, we rely on the baseball team or the fair grounds to put on fireworks shows. No matter how it is demonstrated across the country, Independence Day is a day to celebrate America and the new independent nation it became on July 4th, 1776.
Happy Birthday America