With the exception of my senior year of high school — when I was out of my mind with piss, vinegar, and hormones — I spent every childhood 4th of July in Bristol, Rhode Island with my dad. My son is (astonishingly) ten months old now and I have spent most of the day wondering how in the world my dad managed to do it. He was then almost exactly as old as I am now.
I have a wife, a baby, two dogs and two cats, and I spend most of my time feeling completely overwhelmed. It would not at all be uncommon on one of those 4ths of July in Bristol for my dad to be hosting two sons, two daughters, a wife, a dog, a mother, two sisters, a brother-in-law, at least a pair of nieces and nephews (if not three or four of each), a few cousins, a few coworkers and their children, and several neighborhood kids. I am telling you, anonymous reader, those 4th of July weekends were epic.
There are not many small towns in America that host a 4th of July parade worthy of its own Wikipedia entry. And the concert and fireworks at night in Colt State Park … There’s no way to describe how much fun we crammed into one weekend.
I remember one year — I guess I was 12 or 13 — my dad shook me awake at six in the morning. Everyone else was still asleep; there were Gagnes sleeping on couches and inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags scattered throughout 16 Fatima Drive. He’d already made a pot of coffee and I had just enough time to grab a cup and race out to the driveway to meet him in the car. (This had to have been my first summer of drinking coffee, a wonderful exotic drink previously only consumed by “adults”.) We drove to the ocean and went into a shack on a pier where the men had clearly already been awake for many, many hours. There my dad bought a dozen lobsters, a dozen littlenecks, and probably two dozen steamers. He paid by peeling bills from a big roll of 20s with a lit Winston dangling from his lips and laughing, always laughing.
The feast we had that afternoon was incredible. Corn on the cob grilled in the husk, chorizo from the Portuguese butcher, coffee mugs filled with melted butter, raw clams and steamed clams, gigantic lobster claws, more Budweiser longnecks than you’d ever dream one family could handle … The sights and smells and sounds of that summer float through my memories constantly now that I have a son of my own.
A 4th of July in Los Angeles is not quite the same as one a heartbeat away from the birthplace of America. But we’ll get to see some fireworks tonight, and I’ll blast the 1812 Overture and throw my son in the air in time with the cannons. And one day I will dance with him sitting on my shoulders watching marching bands and floats in a fantastic parade.
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