I don’t know about you, but I remember the Fourth of July was a lot more fun when I was growing up. I grew up in a typical tract home in Southern California. On the 4th of July it seemed everybody ended up sitting on their driveways, eating hot dogs and hamburgers, visiting with neighbors and family.

Hand-cranked ice cream!

Hand-cranked ice cream!

I remember spending hours cranking the ice cream maker while waiting for my father to set up the fireworks on the street. Of course being purists we had to make vanilla, but I remember sneaking over to the Maring’s two doors down to try their latest experiment in fruit-flavored ice cream. happy family looking fireworks in the evening skyThen the fireworks would begin. Ground bloom flowers, piccolo petes, Roman candles, pinwheels. We would work our way through all the lesser items to the grand finale cone. Each family would jockey for the timing of their grand finale – you didn’t want to have your audience distracted by the goings on down the street. And then it was over. A few random sparklers, another bowl of ice cream, and dragging the chairs back inside. We were smiling, tired, and content.

Unfortunately, the Fourth of July celebrations of my youth have all but disappeared. Now it’s organized events in stadiums and local schools. As for homemade ice cream, good luck! The thing that strikes me looking back on those days was my sense of belonging. The whole tract was part of my front yard. When I was out running around I could knock on nearly any neighbor’s door for a quick bathroom break. My friends and I ran through backyards, climbed each other’s trees, and would get yelled at by any of our moms.

When I grew older and moved out of the neighborhood, that sense of community disappeared. In my new home I couldn’t even tell you the names of the neighbors across the street let alone two doors down. Recently, however, I’ve started to notice at least some areas trying to recreate that sense of community. The past few years we have gone to my brother-in-law’s home where they have “Movies in the Park” once a month during the summer. They set up a big screen, serve popcorn, and play a kids’ movie. They also hold a number of block party and holiday events during the course of the year. It seems they are trying to recapture that earlier sense of connectedness. In these challenging times the world has gotten smaller, but it has also gotten scarier. Having a sense of comfort with your neighbors has become more important.

Grand Finale!

Grand Finale!

Our challenge as we move forward may be to look back. To remind ourselves of the joys we had before we “grew up” and became “responsible adults.” Let’s create our tract of friends, sit on the driveway, and let the sparks fly. Line up the grand finale cones!

(Now I’m going to tap my inner youth a bit and reference a Katy Perry song, “Firework”. Because it makes me smile … and it fits this blog. Don’t worry, next time it will be the Beatles or a Rolling Stones song! I had to make at least one musical reference given Bill’s last entry…)

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It’s always been inside of you, you, you
And now it’s time to let it through
‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth!