Red, Bite and Blue

Aside from a well-made mac and cheese, holidays are my true weakness. I’m that crazy person who sends my annual Christmas party save-the-dates the day I put away the Easter grass, I’m the obnoxiously sappy person in pink on Valentine’s Day and I’m the mermaid eating Count Chocula and watching Halloween in between trick-or-treaters on October 31.

But there are a few supposedly joyous holiday rituals for which the “joy” part has always eluded me. Dying eggs is tedious, finger-staining and olfactory-offending, wrapping lights around the Christmas trees drives me to overdo the eggnog, and I’m positive that manically-smashed pumpkins are the frustrated byproduct of people who were recently forced to sit and carve one themselves. Once the rough part is over I enjoy every last detail, but the one holiday that has always – sometimes literally – sucked the life out of me is the Fourth of July.

Now I adore America and I adore birthdays, but two of the sneakiest sounds-like-fun-but-is-really-pure-evil activities occur on this day – parades and fireworks. These activities are stale pieces of bread on an otherwise fabulous sandwich of family fun time and amazing food.

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, the Fourth of July was usually a humid ninety degrees. Midwesterners everywhere had the same ritual – we’d all put on our uber-patriotic Old Navy t-shirts and start the six-coat shellac process: one layer of sunscreen, then one layer of bug spray then one layer of sunscreen, and so on. I assure you this process was in vain.

The town parade was the first order of the day. With one hand shielding your eyes from the sun and the other waving at the clown in hopes that he chucks candy in your general direction, you stood in the sweltering heat as crowds cheered at their children and sweat yellowed your t-shirt. The lively music and the old Dalmatian-in-a-fire-truck bit makes you think you’re having a good time, but it’s all just a rouse to give Dad time to have a few beers as he “fires up the grill” back home. The parade has accomplished its mission and you’re a few pints short of blood already.

Next is the wonderful meat filling of the day – the barbecue. You load your plate with corn on the cob, a couple hot dogs, and some of that fabulous Jell-O all whip-creamed and strawberried up to look like an American flag, and then you attempt to sneak inside to the solace of the air conditioner… to no avail. Mom is going to make you sit outside with the fam and “enjoy the beautiful day.” Your arms now match your berries.

Finally the sun goes down and it’s off to watch the most anti-climactic show on earth. Unless you’re at Disneyland or one of those parties at the Gatsby household, fireworks are like the wedding cake of holidays. You wait and wait for the big finish, and then you all sit around staring at each other assuming there’s more. And if the show happened to be amazing, you surely missed it by playing the “whose blood is this” game after each mosquito you smashed.

As much as the Fourth of July was always a half-loaded firecracker of a holiday for me, I’ll find my own way to celebrate the hell out of it. And when I have my own family, I’ll be the one sending them off to the parade while I toss back a few and “fire up the grill.”

About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
This entry was posted in Commentary, Family, Food, Holidays, Humor, Life, Nostalgia and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Red, Bite and Blue

  1. paywindow7 says:

    Then there’s the beer factor. I was always curious about how much beer my buds could put away on the 4th. More than usual, much more it seemed. Probably because we were all sweating buckets. I live “deep in the heart of” and the temperature in July is typically 100+ with 70% humidty even at 10:00pm when the fireworks start..
    By the by I’ve started my own blog at Not much there yet, one post and a few pictures but I’m going to try and grow it and park some writings there as I learn how it works. Drop by if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

  2. Karen says:

    Hello, I just discovered your blog and wanted to let you know that I enjoyed it. What can you say about the 4th of July. We had friends that held an annual party…we would drive an hour to get there, sit outside on a little rental chair wishing we were inside sitting on something comfortable. We would stand in a line to eat BBQ that tasted of lighter fluid and worry when the fireworks went off that a neighbors roof would catch fire. I’ll be writing about those memories this week. Hope you have a good 4th.

  3. kitchenmudge says:

    I live in the southwest. The only sensible thing to do from July through September is hide under a rock like an iguana.

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