Thursday, July 4, 2013

How to celebrate the 4th

part 2....

This is specifically to assure you that my children do NOT think that the 4th of July is only about burgers, fireworks and the Boston Pops.

Nope.  For this history geek's family the following also holds true for the week of the 4th:

New T-shirts.
A Mega Movie Marathon.
A tacky flag shaped jello-salad will appear at some cook-out, at some point in the week.
You are allowed to shout the following ..."Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!!" when your mother makes her morning appearance.

Yup.  In my brain this makes perfect sense.

I skip the everyoneweargreenandred family Christmas photo.
I skip the everyonewearkhakianddenim family portrait photo.
I skip just about every holiday themed family photo op there is on the calendar....
....except July 4th.
For July 4th I will begin my search 8 weeks in advance for the most competitively priced patriotic themed T-shirts and then make my family keep their red, white and blue shirts in their dresser drawer until July 4th.  NO ONE is allowed to wear the shirt until the specified day. Then, they must wear the shirt ALL DAY on the 4th.
Nothing says Independence Day Fun like a T-shirt that has absorbed the odors of grill, catsup, potato salad, orange soda, bug spray, sun screen and gun powder smoke, with a little pre-teen deodorant forgetfulness thrown in for good measure.

Most people associate the fourth day of July with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  Technicalities aside, the fourth was a very key day in that document's history, so we can go with that.

In my family, however, we also choose to remember the three day battle that took place in a tiny little town in Pennsylvania on July 1-3,1863: Gettysburg.  We watch the movies Gods and Generals, Gettysburg, and maybe some segments of the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War.  To the extent that some of us can quote  the Chamberlain brothers, Lee, Pickett, Jackson and Sullivan Ballou's letter home before the battle of Bull Run..... but I'm not mentioning names....even if my children still roll their me....every year......

For whatever cook-out/potluck we attend for the holiday I will usually commit to bringing my jello-salad set in the mold shape of a waving flag.  Using strawberry flavored jello, blueberries and whipped cream, I can create a fairly good representation of Old Glory.  As long as I don't try to take the jello out of the mold.....ever. We just decorate it and serve it form the mold itself....something about not letting the flag touch the ground...even in jello form....sigh.

About the Huzzah.....
You see, one of my favorite time periods in United States history is the War of 1812.  Think...making sure the British really were convinced that we were serious in 1776 about that whole free and independent thing.
While I am almost certain that I can come up with something significant that happened in that war on a July 4th, I'm not sure that it really matters for this.
This is the day my favorite piece of U.S.history comes alive.  The U.S.S. Constitution, one of the first six frigates in the United States Navy, and the oldest commissioned, naval ship afloat takes a cruise around her host harbor every year on the 4th. She parades through the harbor, fires her cannon in salute and reminds us all that history can indeed reach out from the past to touch us in the present.
Her nick-name is "Old Ironsides" due to the fact that cannon balls would literally bounce off her hull during battle.  Hence the quote from a 19th century sailor greeting me some mornings in my caffeine deprived stupor.
Why would a mother allow her children to shout such things at her, comparing her to an inanimate object?
Well, this particular inanimate object is:
1) over 200 years old and still not retired
2) undefeated in battle
3) the recipient of multi-million dollar restorations to keep her in tip-top shape
Who wouldn't want to be referred to as such????

Oh, Yeah,...She also lives at the Charlestown Navy Yard, in Boston Harbor  ;)

Which brings me back to my gluten free cheeseburger, non-fat low sugar iced coffee and my Boston Pops concert watched from the comfort of my central air-conditioned living room on my husband's laptop for the local, not national broadcast this year.

'Cause while some things change, others can and should remain the same....

and I didn't miss the class on that!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to celebrate the Fourth of July

(part 1) least, others may think so.....

Growing up in the Boston area the 4th of July  was "kind of" a big deal.  After all, Boston was one of the centers of colonial dis-satisfaction and home of some the more colorful rabble rousers  Founding Fathers of the American Revolution.  It is also the home of the Boston Pops and their annual concert on the Esplanade.  With conductors like Arthur Feidler, John Williams and Keith Lockhart, this local tradition turned into a nationally televised event.

One that many of us avoided like the Bubonic Plague.

Watching the preparations could be fascinating.  The fireworks barge being set up on the Charles River, road traffic being re-routed, spectators camping out in the wee hours of a muggy July morning in front of the Hatch Shell to claim a spot of lawn with their picnic blankets.  There was also the prospect of laughing at watching all the tourists try to figure out how to navigate the maze of roads and decipher the weird unique dialect that makes Boston such a frustrating  fun town to visit.

Did I mention the spectators?  As in the MANY spectators? As in the thousands of spectators who crowded the trains, buses and trolleys of an already crowded public transportation system? At rush hour.

Did I mention the humidity? As in the HIGH humidity?  As in the sticky, clinging, oppressive, makes you glad for just a puff of breeze mugginess that comes from living in a cement jungle next to a large body of water?

Did I mention the tourists?  As in the CONFUSED tourists? As in the lost, dazed, befuddled, can't figure out rotaries, trains, or how to parallel pahk a cah tourists?

Plus the fact that my parents had 4 kids to corral, none of us being particularly good at sitting on a picnic blanket for hours on end waiting for a bunch of  people with instruments to start playing music we weren't ready to appreciate at an hour when we were normally in bed.
So we did what many of the locals do on the 4th ....let friends from out of town park in our driveway so they can brave the public and the public transportation system, then sit in the fan-cooled living room with our burgers, corn on the cob and non-sweetened  ice tea or coma inducing sweetened iced coffee.  
And watch the entire concert,  complete with the 1812 Overture and fireworks galore.......that was happening within a few miles of our house.......on T.V. 

Thanks to my parents wisdom in skipping a potentially scarring event on our country's birthday, I now love celebrating July 4th.  So much so that I could have a weeks worth of activities planned to celebrate the birth of our country and the many other key events in our history that center around this one day in July.

And I can still watch the Boston Pops, with my buger and iced coffee.....on T.V. 

...'cause I didn't miss the class on that!