It’s the Fourth of July weekend and we don’t have any plans. During the drought, our city cancelled the fireworks display and it hasn’t been reinstated. So we won’t be seeing fireworks from our backyard again this year, but I’m thinking of the happy celebration of Independence Day when I was a kid.
A Carnival came to my hometown, and we celebrated the Fourth in the park. I rode the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. There were the usual carnival booths with food and games, but I don’t remember much about them. The merry-go-round was my favorite back then, and I still love it. And the swimming pool was open. It was a fun time!
Besides the celebration in the park on the Fourth, Daddy always brought in a brown paper bag filled with sparklers, Roman candles, and firecrackers… and a big watermelon. I still remember Daddy lighting the Roman candles in the front yard and then running to safe place to watch the blast off. Sometimes it only spewed a few sparks on the ground and then fizzled out… After the bag was emptied, Daddy cut the big watermelon in half lengthwise. We all got a spoon and dug in, Daddy, Mamma, and me… We ate the heart first and then went for the seedy part… I got in trouble for spitting the seeds back in the watermelon… I know… Ewww… (I was little.)
By the time I started school, the Fourth of July celebration in the park was cancelled due to polio. The epidemic scared everyone. No one knew what caused the dreaded disease. All we knew was that it was highly contagious, crippling, and sometimes fatal. Back then, parents faced each summer with fear. I remember pictures of polio patients in iron lungs, and recovering children in leg braces and crutches. It was frightening for everyone. Fear took away the summer fun. The pool was closed and the carnival was cancelled. We celebrated at home with fireworks and watermelon… and I learned a better way to deal with the seeds.
Years later, after I was married and had small children, we were among the first to stand in line to get a sugar cube laced with the polio vaccine. Thanks to Jonas Salk, the fear of polio was gone and the Fourth of July celebration in my hometown came back but I had moved away. I saw a message on Facebook about big plans for the Fourth of July celebration in the park this year…
Happy Fourth to everyone – Those of us who have memories and those who are making them.