Last year was ridiculous.
The street in front of my house had been freshly paved, asphalted for the umpteenth time. So it was nice and smooth, the way an asphalt stretch of road is for about a day and a half, a pleasure to drive on.
It was also dark.
And the 4th of July arrived and brought with it a 100-degree temperature and nothing but blazing-down sun.
Oh, those poor parade walkers.
Oh, poor me.
I was still recovering from an exquisite bout of food poisoning but had pulled together lunch for family and friends. I stayed in stretchy pants all day, fashion be damned – not that I care about fashion most days anyway.
I also made it a point to stay in the air-conditioned house as much as possible. Folks would come in, wilted. I busied myself with putting away leftovers and composing bags of food for folks to take home and doing dishes to stay ahead of the post-party clean up. My house has windows. I could glance outside and see the parade.
This year, I thought I might not be home for the parade, but I invited folks to come by anyway. My lawn wasn't going anywhere. The street wasn't going anywhere. The parade would still appear on the street. In front of my home.
But then plans changed, as plans often do, and I was going to be here after all. So the evening before, I retrieved my outdoor chairs from the loft space in my garage and hosed them down and set them by the street. Everyone sets out their chairs and canopies and such the night before, to reserve space. I always leave a good stretch of frontage open, for folks who don't live on the route but who make their way to the festivities.
The next morning, I was up early. I put out my flag and ran to the grocery store for ice and a few other necessities. I baked a pan of brownies. I dealt with some weeds in the back yard, in case anyone looked. I cleaned up the house. I showered and got dressed. I put on a Springsteen CD. (It would have been my friend Jeff's 26th wedding anniversary, so I was spinning Bruce in honor of him and Sherry.) And I waited. Given the change in plans, I wasn't serving lunch. And it was nice, to not be busy in advance of lots of folks arriving.
A few people arrived and settled themselves in chairs by the street. I stood in front of them, chatting. (Sitting in a row is not conducive to conversation.)
And as banal as it is to talk about the weather, I couldn't help remarking: It was exceptional 4th of July weather. Sunny (but shady under the tree in my parkway), breezy, the temperature flirting with 80. A huge improvement over the previous year's freshly asphalted ovenpalooza.
The parade commenced – I ducked inside to avoid the worst of the sirens – and continued pleasantly. A family had been wandering down the sidewalk before the parade began, a mom, dad, and two kids, with chairs in tow, clearly looking for a space to settle. I invited them to use my set-aside portion of lawn. The mom and I chatted briefly. I warned her about the sirens. And also mentioned that her kids were well positioned for candy gathering. (I expect that those further down the route get skimpier candy as those who toss it out during the parade probably start running out and begin to conserve.)
There was the usual mix of parade entries: some folks who put a lot of effort into floats, people on horses, the lazy contingent who affix signs to the sides of minivans and SUVs, bands, cheerleaders, politicians.
And then I saw a woman holding a sign that read: "Abortions kill babies."
I glanced up at the van that was trailing her slightly. I don't remember the name of the organization, but you get the gist.
I turned to my brother and said, "Way to bring down the mood."
I'm not sure of the entry requirements for a parade, and I'm a big fan of the First Amendment, but there's a time and a place to express your message, and, well, a 4th of July parade might not be the most ideal setting with the most receptive audience. Kids are scampering into the street to scoop up Tootsie Rolls and Twizzlers. Folks are collecting little American flags. War veterans are rolling by on floats and flatbeds.
"Abortions kill babies" is a bit jarring in their midst.
Thankfully, the moment passed. As all moments do. Of course, for another mile or so, folks for another mile or so would have the same experience as the parade rolled by them. But we turned our attention to whatever was next, as would they.
As the parade neared its end, I popped back into the house to slice up watermelon and brownies and put on a pot of coffee and set out napkins and plates.
The post-parade clean up consisted of folding up a few chairs and leaning them against the garage.
And then a small group of us gathered in the dining area of my kitchen and noshed on brownies and grapes and watermelon and sipped coffee which was enjoyable because it wasn't 100 degrees outside. And we snapped a few photographs of us outside, with my flag playing its part in the background. And off they went. And I didn't have much facing me in terms of getting my house back to rights.
Later, that evening, when darkness finally fell, I plopped down in a dining chair and watch the fireworks that I could see from my dining-room window and then headed back to the couch where I would have dozed off if it weren't for the series of booms happening outside my window.
But I did sleep, eventually. Which I know because I woke up in darkness and said, "Oh. It's quiet." And I got up and shuffled off to my bedroom, where I looked at the clock and noted that it was 1:48 a.m. So, yes, it should have been quiet.
I hereby request that all 4ths of July from here on out be sunny and breezy and right around 80 degrees. Even a bit cooler would be just fine.
I hope your holiday was filled with good times and noodle salad.