We don’t have definitive plans this holiday weekend. With our son in Nashville, our youngest at the lake with her boyfriend, and our eldest and her husband celebrating with friends, I thought it might be fun to revisit our past 4th of July tradition.
When Dad retired, my parents decided to relocate from Connecticut to “within a day’s drive of the grandkids” – which resulted in settling in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Dad was attracted to the several community golf courses, which he took advantage of several times a week, and Mom enjoyed the return to true southern hospitality. They purchased a beautiful lakefront home because they thought the grandkids would enjoy proximity to water activities. They were right!
We always made it a point to visit a minimum of three times each summer: Memorial Day Weekend – 4th of July – and Labor Day Weekend. One of the favorite pastimes was to drive the pontoon boat to the end of the lake and then begin the raft rides. The kids quickly learned thumbs up meant go fast and thumbs down meant slow down. My son could never go fast enough – my youngest preferred a standstill. But everyone had fun in the water and on the boat. Snacks were required, typically Dr. Pepper, Cream Soda, and Cheese-Its – and the hits of the 70s-80s-90s were always playing on the radio.
After a day on the water, we would spend some time on the dock. Graddy (my oldest’s attempt at saying Granddaddy – and it stuck) always made sure to have a supply of crickets on hand, just in case anyone wanted to fish. He would painstakingly put the cricket on the hook, allow the girls to fish, remove the crappie from the hook, and then release it back into the water. I’m not sure what it is about fishing, but even this high-tech generation finds it a relaxing adventure.
The highlight of the 4th of July holiday, however, was neither boat rides nor fishing…. the highlight was the trip to the fireworks stand. It was truly Christmas in July for my husband and the kids. The boys were drawn to the big boom items while the girls gravitated toward colorful light displays. Every year the cart was overloaded just a bit more … and every year the display was just a bit more entertaining.
Dad and Geoff would try to prepare the dock in advance, but the kids were too excited to wait. A few roman candles and firecrackers would suffice while the sun was still shining, but the real show happened after dark. The girls would sit on blankets on the grass, waiting patiently between rounds. Fortunately other families at the lake had this same tradition, so the wait was never too long before another colorful red, white or blue streaked the sky. Oohs and Ahhs could be heard all around as we all enjoyed one another’s display.
The last time we had such celebration was 2005. Three months later my dad died of a massive heart attack. Mom eventually sold the house (despite our constant pleading) and it is now listed on several online rental sites where others can experience a family vacation at a conveniently located property – right on the water.
It will, however, always be our HOME… filled with fond memories and a grandparent’s special love.