I know tons of people who say July 4 is their favorite holiday. The fireworks. Picnics and cookouts. Pool parties. Ice cream.
I’m not questioning that they love the holiday. It’s just been that growing up that wasn’t my experience.
I grew up on a farm and July 4 comes right in the middle of the summer growing season. And the middle of those long months of irrigation. So even if my dad was going to take the day off (which honestly, I don’t remember happening much), he still had to get up and run the wells (irrigation) in the morning and evening. Sundays, holidays, weekends. During irrigation season you don’t really get a break from checking the wells. Farmers get up every morning and do it first thing, driving to the farms where they are watering and turning off wells that have been running and turning others on. Don’t even get me started on “the linear,” an irrigation system that moved throughout the field and was the bane of my dad’s existence for awhile.
So July 4 was a lot like any other summer day growing up. My dad got up, checked the wells, and generally, they would work for awhile, at least in the morning. At some point in the afternoon, they’d come home, clean up, and we’d barbecue or something. When we were younger, we shot off fireworks in the yard. When we got older, we’d just try to watch neighboring towns fireworks from our porch.
But I have a fuzzy memory of a July 4 when we all gathered at my Grandma’s, where she’d assembled a feast (and we’d all contributed). I remember sitting around in lawn chairs, cousins, and fun. I remember liking that day.
And I remember others when we’d have Grandma down to our house for some of whatever we’d thrown on the grill. I remember her saying every year “we’ll make a freezer of cream up in the afternoon.” “Freezer of cream,” of course was Grandma for ice cream, and even though she said it every year, we only did that a year or two.
But yesterday, all those memories came flooding back. My grandma must have loved July 4, I realized, because she always tried to create special, fun moments in the middle of it, even if her boys did have to work some on the holiday.
And I missed her fiercely yesterday.
July 4 snuck up on me. I thought I’d miss her at my birthday, a day before hers, a special bond she and my brother and I shared. I figured I’d miss her at Christmas because she’d always been such a big part of that celebration, too. I didn’t think I’d miss her desperately on July 4, a holiday that wasn’t even a high-water mark holiday in my family.
But even through some tears, the memories made me smile. Maybe next year, I’ll even make “a freezer of cream up in the afternoon.”