From the time our kids were little, our 4th of July tradition had been to spend the day at my dad's farm. We would spend a week planning out the meal from burgers and brats to my step mother's AMAZING potato salad to the red, white, and blue jello she made for the kids every year. By noon we would be at the house setting up and preparing for the day's festivities.
The kids would help their dad unload the trunk full of fireworks with wide-eyed anticipation.
"How long til it's dark?"
"Can we just do one now?"
Before long they would be popping Snaps on the sidewalk and squealing with delight. My brother and sister would come out with a box of matches and help the little kids light the black tabs that would grow into "snakes" and set off colored smoke bombs in the driveway.
By the time dinner was ready, Sean and the other "big boys" would have the daytime attractions ready to fire: bottle rockets and parachutes. Kids would scramble as the paper parachutes drifted through the sky.
Despite the heat, my dad would start a campfire and set up a semi circle of chairs facing the large gravel driveway. He was always mindful of wind direction and to make sure no one got too close to the livestock or the hay barn. We would fill our plates with food just before dusk and settle in around the campfire. Before supper was over, the kids would be begging for marshmallows to roast.
After our supplies were spent, we would pull our chairs into the driveway for a perfect view of the city fireworks display. Dad always joked that we had to move further out into the driveway each year for a good view because, "It seems like those trees get taller every year."
When the last sparkle left the sky, it was time to gather around the bon fire and roast marshmallows. If you were roasting for Grandma, you would stick it deep into the flames until it caught fire. For the little kids, just a little brown around the edges. Add graham crackers and Hershey bar for the most finger-licking melty treat you can imagine!
The logs would slowly begin to burn out and turn to ash. Any free lap was prime real estate for a sleepy child. A few stray fireworks would pop in the distance from time to time.
I have missed these times greatly in the past few years. The farm no longer stands and my dad is gone. My husband can't enjoy the fireworks the way he once did and the children are grown with plans of their own. Today was HARD.
A wise and wonderful friend told me tonight that the reason today was so painful for me was because these memories are like opening up a box of my father's belongings--things I'm not necessarily ready to deal with that have raw pain attached to them. I opened a box and looked inside. It's all there, inside me. So until next year, I'm going to replace the lid and store that box away, knowing there is a piece of me stored inside as well. It's not gone. . . but will be there when I'm ready to peek in again.