Parades, Pony Rides, Pop, and Fireworks

One of my sisters has a July 4th birthday. She believed, as I did, that the annual celebrations were all in her honor. I have learned since that this was not necessarily the case, but I don't have the heart to pass this information along to her.

Spending much of my childhood in a small rural town colored my expectations for post-childhood.  Summertime, especially, brought experiences that have yet to be duplicated, and I don't believe this is simply a result of romantic nostalgia.  In Gaylord we really knew how to have a good time, and there was no bigger party than on the 4th of July.

Each year the events kicked off with a kiddie parade.  Every kid in the county marched in costume, and there were prizes for best costume, best group theme, etc.  My sister, the neighborhood kids, and I spent the week before the 4th working on our parade costumes while my best friend Shelly had her costumes tailored in a near by town.  We'd wake early on the 4th, make last minute adjustments to our costumes and props, then take the long walk to the assembly area, confident until we saw what the rest of the kids had pulled together.  And Shelly won best of show every year.

I never received an allowance, but on the 4th of July my parents gave generously.  My pockets jingled with cash when, after a quick lunch at home, we spilled into the city park. There were vendors and games, and adults drinking beer and eating burgers along the shores of Lake Titloe.  One year my sister (the one with the birthday) pooled money from our neighborhood gang.  She said if one of us entered the talent show and won, we would split the cash award.  She convinced me to sign up for the talent show to sing "Blue Bird" (a favorite among my kindergarten classmates).  My parents' friends heard the announcer call me to the stage, and they asked "Isn't that your daughter's name?"  My mom answered, "Oh no, none of our daughters have any talent."  My sister never forgave me for losing the contest (and her portion of the entry fee) but I was on to better moments.

Most of my financial aid was spent on the ponies.  Not gambling, but riding!  About half a dozen sad little shaggy ponies circled a post in the middle of the park.  A child simply handed a few cents to the owner and suddenly found herself swept up by a roady and placed gently on the leather Western saddle of a real pony.  The ride never lasted long enough, but after four or five trysts in a day I was convinced that I would soon be discovered and the rodeo people would beg me to appear on the circuit.

We were allowed pop twice a year in my house, and the 4th of July was a free-for-all, especially if you could figure out the ring toss. As a result, the ring toss was my best game.  One year I took home both a bottle of Orange Crush and a root beer.

The day ended with fireworks.  I'd sit holding my dad's hand; looking up at the sky in wonder.  We'd laugh at the old ladies with their "Ooohs" and "Ahhhs."  Afterwards somehow I'd beat a pop-induced sugar rush into submission and be ready for sleep as soon as I dropped into bed.

I still greet each July 4th convinced that I'll win the parade, or at least get an honorable mention.  I remain convinced that the rodeo needs me, and I love drinking an ice cold Orange Crush about once a year.  And the fireworks?  Well, I guess I've just accepted that they are in honor of my sister's birthday.


frimp said…
You are patriotic.
stephaniesays said…
this is a cute/sweet entry...but which sister's birthday is the fourth of july?
patrice said…
Susan is a 4th of July baby!

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