My novel is set in 1980 right around the 4th of July, and in the story, some pretty major events take place at the big neighborhood barbecue. I was thinking about this, and also thinking about how little has changed in the way I spend the 4th of July now compared with the way I spent it growing up. With the exception of the years when we used to go see the Beach Boys on the Mall (very little of which I actually remember), what we do now to mark the day is pretty much the same. Except for the macaroni salad. It's now PASTA salad tossed with balsamic and olive oil (hold the mayo, please!). And quite possibly, there won't be any Jell-O. But Jell-O is a variable I'm not willing to predict; it shows up when you least expect it. There will be cupcakes, both homemade and store-bought, mini and full-size. My son will want one of each, and I will say "pick one." Later, my husband and I will learn that we both said "pick one," and our son got away with it.
Unlike the cookout in my book, I'm assuming that no one will be telling bad Richard Pryor jokes while lighting the grill. And, probably, no one will quote Emerson. Or get stoned. Or have sex behind the pool pump room. Yes, this does all happen in my book. It did not happen to me. I want to make that clear, in case any former (or current) neighbors are reading this.
We have a parade on our street. All the kids ride bikes or scooters, and it's kind of cool to see who got their training wheels off each year. One mom takes charge and gets everyone to stand still for photos (she always succeeds--I think I need her to take our holiday shots this year), and someone has a boombox that plays corny patriotic music. Then we eat a lot and swim, and the kids shoot each other with high-powered water guns while all of us liberal parents look on in horror.
So, on Saturday, I'll be wearing my 33-year-old American Bicentennial hat, which I pull out just for the occasion, and eating my once-a-year burger. There's probably more to complain about regarding the State of the Union these days then there was when I was a kid (at least it seems that way), but for one afternoon, in keeping with the tradition, we'll only complain about property taxes.
Whatever your annual tradition is, or even if you don't have one, I hope you do something fun. And remember, if it contains mayonnaise, don't let it sit out too long.