The Fourth of July was always a special holiday in the town in which I grew up. Many fond recollections of Independence Day celebrations in Paramus, NJ, remain etched in my memory. The annual parade down Farview Avenue to Midland Avenue was typical of local parades, but for some reason it seemed grander to me. My mother would get me dressed in a red, white and blue sun dress and my parents would lead us to the area in front of Memorial School for a curbside seat. Part of the magic I remember involved watching my big brother march with the Drum and Bugle Corp. They donned orange satin shirts, shiny black cummerbunds and feather plumes in their hats. A marching version of the calypso tune “Mary Ann” played as I waited eagerly to spot Ray with his bugle. I probably remember that number most vividly since he also practiced it at home. “All day, all night, Mary Ann.” In my teen years I marched with the high school band- sometimes playing the piccolo and other times on the glockenspiel (bells) in heavy navy blue and white uniforms and heavy hats. My marching band career was not a highlight of my musical experience. Not very good at either instrument, I’m sure the director was happy when I became a cheerleader and only played in the concert band. I was slightly more proficient on the flute, but still not very good. I sat third chair, which also demonstrates the quality of the flute section.
Back to the fourth. After the parade there was always a barbecue. Earlier cookouts took place at Veterans Park in Ridgefield Park, NJ, where my grandfather was the caretaker of the park. It had a pool, tennis courts, baseball field, playground swings and merry-go-round along with many charcoal grills for the impending cookout. Italian sausage, peppers and onions, steak, hot dogs, hamburgers, salads and corn made for a scrumptious meal outdoors. Soda, which was usually absent at home made its appearance on the picnic tables. Lots of yummy desserts followed. Food and drink were equally important in the old days.
In later years the barbecues were moved to our home and to yards of aunt’s, uncle’s and neighbors. My mother’s birthday was on July 3rd and our friends had a father and daughter duo with birthdays on July 4th. This was of course cause for a bigger and better celebration. The evening culminated in a fireworks display which always took my breath away.
Memories of the same day as an adult never quite measured up to those childhood experiences. I’m not sure if Mt. Holly even had a parade July 4th. There were fireworks at Mill Dam Park and for many years we walked down Buttonwood St. to the park. As our children grew older and had their own plans for the holiday, we settled for viewing the fireworks from our front porch, even though it was a slightly obstructed view through the tall trees. Our July 4th in NY is now only a celebration of food and drink. The fireworks have been moved to Cortland and the greater distance has discouraged us from going. Instead we listen to the distant surrounding communities enjoying their fireworks and the occasional neighbor creating their own show.
As this year’s Independence Day approaches I applaud the communities who continue to create a special day. My collage is dedicated to my memories of patriotic Fourths gone by. A somewhat fantasy inspired landscape in red, white and blue conjures up the excitement I once enjoyed each time this holiday came to pass.