Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy Fourth of July!

Underneath my sometimes cynical, urban self beats the heart of a sentimental small-town girl. She peeks out at the oddest times--like during the local Fourth of July parade.

It's truly a local affair. The parade starts off with the local motorcycle cop, then the fire trucks, followed by the Police Explorers or the VFW as an honor guard. The reviewing stand is a flatbed truck parked in the middle of the street and the President of the Chamber of Commerce comments on the marching units as they pass. The local mayor and City Council drive by in borrowed convertibles. There are horses, the local swim team, the Baseball and Softball All-Stars, the Sister City Association, and several local civic groups. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts march by. Some years an enterprising block gets together and marches as a group.

We've gone for the last 15 years or so. We have marched as part of the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts until our children were more embarassed than honored. People we knew yelled and waved. This year, we yelled and waved. And I grew teary-eyed, even though the music was recorded, when the Star-Spangled Banner was played.

We almost didn't go. We had been to the annual family picnic the night before and DS#1 and DD#1 were tired. DD#1 also had to return to camp and had to finish some last minute chores--like her laundry. DS#2 was not enthused about going. He's a teen and prefers sleeping and computer games to almost anything else. Hubs seemed drained. There were things, like blogging, that I could have done. But DD#2 is more of a tradtionalist than I am. Reluctant to march in the parade herself, she really wanted to go. So Hubs got up and even DS#2 reluctantly rose from his bed and got dressed and joined us in the folding chairs on the sidewalk in the neighboring town.

After the parade the real reason DD#2 wanted to go became evident: she wanted to see if any of her friends were there. A couple were, including one family we've known for a long time. We discovered they are moving away because of the local schools. Hubs and I looked at each other. "Well?" he asked. Yeah. Well. I like our little community. We have long roots there. The community where our friends are moving is higher income. The houses cost more. It's hotter during the summer--air-conditioning hot. Hubs works in that community; I commute on BART, so that wouldn't be a problem. We have 11 more years of mortgage payments, then this house is ours. (Wow! That's not long at all!) We're not moving unless the local high school truly falls apart.

We took DD#1 back to camp and noticed that traffic was light and the community was quiet. Few flags down the main streets. No street fairs. The stores were quiet. At camp, the counselors who stayed behind, mostly from foreign countries or out-of-state, called to our daughter warmly. They were happy to see the Doritos and the movies she brought from home.

"So, do you have a copy of the history of this place?" I asked her as she gave Hubs the tour.

"Mom, I am the history of this place," she sighed. She is the second generation of our family to come to this camp. She has the accumulated stories of me and my cousins as well as her own. DD#2 had her own stories to share with Hubs as well.

"This is where I slept, Dad," she told him, walking into one of the tent platforms. "And this is where the animals were kept."

"You sleep inside?" Hubs was appalled.

"This is Girl Scout Camp for beginners," I explained. "For girls who don't like to get dirty. Who have never been away from home overnight."

He shook his head. The Boy Scouts don't have anything like this.

That night we parked downtown and walked down to the bay to watch fireworks. DS#1 had his own party to go to. DD#2 sat with a friend and her family. DS#2 brought a buddy and they hung out together. Hubs and I talked to other adults we knew and watched the sun set over Mt. Tamalpais. We oohed and ahhed and cracked up at the comments of the little kids sitting behind us. We applauded and cheered at the finale. On the long shuffle back to the car we stopped and watched folks set off their illegal fireworks in their driveways in the courts. We had a few of our own to set off, but the local police and fire departments are becoming stricter. Plus it was 10:00 p.m. and tomorrow was a work day.

Hubs had barbecued pork loin and corn earlier that day. We had eaten watermelon. We had waved sparklers and reconnected with family, friends and the community. All-in-all, an All-American Fourth of July.