“Hey,” Tim said this morning as we were drinking coffee and getting ready for work. “Happy Fourth of July.”
I wouldn’t have previously said that Fourth of July was a favorite holiday. But faced with it as just a normal working Monday, I realized it has long been a special day.
As a teenager, I had a summer job where I played in the staff orchestra at a Christian resort/retreat center in the one-stoplight* town of Speculator, NY. Each week we learned a new repertoire and presented a new weekend concert in a packed, sloping wood auditorium. Fourth of July, I thought back then, was the best day of the whole summer. The concert was always packed and traditionally included a medley of all the Armed Forces theme songs. When we played this, current or retired members of the military were asked to stand for their branch, and this was incredibly moving. Fifteen years ago, there were a lot of older veterans, and over the years that presence has waned. We’d break out “Summertime,” close with “Stars and Stripes Forever”…. It was a fun show.
The trick was to wear your swimsuit under your concert attire.
Because as soon as the last number was over, we’d run downstairs to the musicians’ room, clean our instruments hastily, and then beat a path down to the beach of Lake Pleasant for the fireworks that followed. And since my friends and I weren’t lucky enough to have a boat, the place to watch them was a floating dock. Fourth of July was a beautiful night.
College brought the end of those summers—until a twist of fate brought the Adirondacks back into my life. Tim’s family owns an old cabin on the outskirts of the same tiny New York town where I once worked, and so in recent years Fourth of July weekend has once again involved mountains, lakes, and a good old-fashioned parade (archaic fire-trucks, people walking horses). On July 4, 2008, the two of us hiked mountains Giant and Rocky Peak with my sister and father-in-law.
Good Lord, this was hot. And buggy. And ridiculous. And my sister’s knee nearly busted. And all those people down at the beach seemed to have the right idea. But it was a Fourth of July I won’t forget. The recent Fourths I haven’t spent in the Adirondacks have been spent in Boston—seeing from the Cambridge side of the Charles the fireworks I grew up watching on TV in New Jersey. Boston is a Fourth of July town.
July 4, 2010, holds a special distinction: it was the last full day I spent in the United States. July 5 we flew to Amsterdam, and so this week marks our one-year Dutch-iversary. I miss my home country, and I couldn’t help wishing on Friday that I was cruising up the NY State Thruway trying to beat the crowds to the Adirondack Park.
Happy birthday, America! See you in the fall.
*The existence of the stoplight at the Four Corners intersection is contested. I thought there was at least a blinking light, but having read the post, Tim thinks there is no light whatsoever.