As the final countdown to our family 4th of July begins, I remember the 4th's past...
The ones at Grandma and Grandpa's house, with my Great Grandmother; my Great Aunts and Uncles; my Mom's sister and brother-in-law and my cousins; sometimes 2nd cousins...hours of food, hours of fireworks. Grandpa striking yellow "fusees" from the railroad so the sulfur smell would drive away the mosquitos; him standing holding a Roman candle in his hand and shooting the flaming balls out across the yard all the while telling us not to hold them in our hands. After his stroke, one of his big treats for the year was to sit in a lawn chair and have us bring them to him.
After Grandma and Grandpa gave up their house and moved into a retirement apartment, they came to my Mom and Dad's. We lost the cousins then, and most of the Great Aunts and Uncles were gone by then, but it was still the family 4th, with almost as many fireworks.
Grandma got sick the night of the 4th in '79; we didn't know for a few days it was the beginning of her last round with cancer.
After we lost her, then Grandpa, then my Dad, things were a bit dampened for few years. For a while it was just Dottie and I and our boys. My sister married and moved just out of town, and the family 4th gathering moved to her house the first time she asked. Her husband's Uncle Miller came to the first few, and would speak of growing up getting a "brick" of .22 shells for the 4th and being admonished to make them last all day. He spoke of re-enacting Civil War battles they'd been told of, or 1st World War ones..."they're coming through the woods" he remembered them "hollering", lol. Then he was gone as well. Cindy moved off to Lawrence, and we gathered there until they outlawed fireworks there three years ago.
Now my sons and their families, my sister and hers will gather here this evening. 20 pounds of chicken for the grill, several hundred dollars worth of fireworks we bought yesterday...somehow it will still be the family 4th, but somehow I'll be thinking of a lot of wonderful people who aren't here to celebrate as well!
Happy 4th of July to all!