On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen colonies of America were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain and were now united, free, and independent states.
Of course, these days, many of us also associate the holiday with barbecues, fireworks, parades, baseball, and other festive, beginning-of-summer activities. So we thought it would be fun to reminisce today about some of our favorite memories celebrating America’s birthday, or whatever makes the day special to us.
I grew up in a CT town that was once burned by the British, and as kids we were never allowed to forget it. Any walk by the town hall, the village green, the schools and libraries, endless antique homes, or local cemeteries meant plaques with mini history lessons. There was always a cannon to be fired, and none of us will ever forget the (literally) years of Bicentennial prep (even the fire hydrants were painted red white and blue). I still own numerous “parchment” copies of the Declaration of Independence, handed out on yearly class field trips to a Colonial-life-interpretation center.
But the 4th always brought a major bonus: fireworks. We’d head in droves to the beaches like Colonial-era lobsters (they were so plentiful people hated them), where we’d lie face-up on blankets to watch the elaborate displays over Long Island Sound. Each Independence Day, I still dress carefully in red, white & blue (I have plenty of choices in my closet) and check the weather report every hour or so to be *sure* it won’t rain on my nightfall parade. This year, I’m returning to CT. I’ve seen the extended forecast, and I’m already negotiating with the weather gods. If they are uncooperative, I guess there’s always the telecast from the Esplanade with the Boston Pops.
I don’t have a single memory of the Fourth of July from my childhood. Not. One. But I do have plenty from Eliza’s childhood. A nearby neighborhood where some of our friends live always hosts a block party on the Fourth. There are drinks and hot dogs and then the kids climb on an old fire truck for a ride around the neighborhood. We would do this in the late morning, making sure we were home before the worst heat of the day. We live in the Studio City hills and up until last year, CBS Radford – the studio in Studio City – would set off fireworks that we could see a lot of from our backyard. We used to have a big play set in the backyard with a little house on top of it, so Eliza would climb to the top and we’d climb as high as we could without our adult weight endangering the thing, and watch as much of the fireworks as we could see – which was quite a bit.
We’ve spent the last few Fourths with friends who have a home in Tahoe Donner, so we’ve gone to the local parade in Truckee. I absolutely love it. But there’s nothing like being able to watch fireworks from your own backyard.
As a kid, the Fourth of July often found us getting together with family and friends at my Uncle Virgil and Aunt Doris’s farm in Tennessee. After a potluck lunch, rock salt and ice filled old-fashioned ice cream makers, then stainless steel inserts were filled with a prepared mixture of milk, cream, sugar, vanilla – and some wonderful extras like peaches or strawberries. Some of the ice cream makers had to be hand cranked, others were electric. But, what I remember most was having to wait what seemed like forever to get two scoops of deliciousness spooned into my bowl. Nothing tastes more like summer to me than grilled hamburgers on Memorial Day and homemade ice cream on Independence Day.
So many of my cherished July Fourth memories have to do with watching fireworks: when I was growing up, my dad used to put on fantastic firework shows for the whole neighborhood! Plus, there’s nothing like the joy of waving a sparkler around.
Also, the July Fourth parade is one of my favorite things every year. Partly because you never know who or what will come around the corner next. Sometimes there are dancers. Sometimes there are vintage cars. Sometimes there are llamas. It’s magical.
We lived in Columbus, Ohio for seven years while my dad taught at the Ohio State Law School, and other than the cold, snowy winters and the humid summers filled with cicadas and fireflies, my most vivid memory of that time is of the July Fourth parade that occurred just down the street from our house: shiny red firetrucks with dalmatians on the front seat, cowboys astride prancing horses, and the high school marching band blasting out John Philip Sousa.
Then afterwards, all the neighborhood kids would congregate at my family’s house to decorate our bikes and wagons with red, white, and blue crepe paper and balloons, and we’d have our own special parade, riding back and fourth along our long blacktop driveway, while my mom blasted march music for us out the window from the living room hifi. How fun was that!
My most memorable Fourth of July memory was during the summer of 1988. Our high school marching band headed east to participate in a national competition, and we topped off the week-long trip by marching in Philadelphia’s Independence Day parade, giving a super-short “concert” (with about 12 people in attendance) on the White House lawn, and hanging out (by ourselves! without adults!) at the National Mall. It was a heady day, not only because I’d checked several items off my band geek bucket list, but because I’d never known that kind of freedom before. (I was also delirious from heatstroke thanks to my wool uniform and towering furry hat—but that’s another story.)
My friends and I did touristy things, and I ended up meeting a cute boy from Seattle who had been turned loose by his family to enjoy the day on his own. The boy tagged along with our group. He and I hit it off. In something like a scene from Grease—or Love American Style—the day ended with Cute Boy kissing me as Fourth of July fireworks blazed above us. I ended up being late back to the band bus and earning the ire of our teacher. Totally worth it.
Readers, what are some of your favorite 4th of July memories? Drop us a note in the comments below!
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to Chicks on the Case and never miss a post. Just click the button on the top right side of this page and let the fun begin!