The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and like other holidays, it’s not something I look forward to, especially with no close relatives. I’ll probably eat lunch at the senior center. They’re having barbecued pork sandwiches which sounds pretty good. I may run into my former high school English teacher who eats there every day. She was one of those teachers who inspired me to read, and although she’s elderly and forgetful, I still enjoy eating lunch with her.
I remember great times we had on the Fourth of July when I was a kid. In Tucson, Arizona, we attended fireworks displays. At first, I covered my ears to shut out the loud bangs, but with my limited vision, I watched, fascinated, as colorful shapes exploded in the night sky. When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, there were no public displays so we bought our own fireworks and shot them off at home, although it was illegal. One time, Dad was kneeling in the middle of the street, about to light one, when we spotted a car coming slowly towards him the way police cars did when patrolling the neighborhood. We stood with baited breath, wondering if we would spend the rest of the holiday behind bars, but as the vehicle pulled to the curb in front of our house, we realized it was Grandma. We were never more glad to see her than at that time.
The following from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, compares how sad holidays can be without close family to how difficult they can be when all the relatives congregate at my house to celebrate. It talks more about Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the concept is the same for all holidays.
Thanksgiving is coming.
Already, a friend far away
asks if I have plans.
I’ll spend Christmas
in the tropics with my brother,
but Thanksgiving’s up in the air
with no husband, father, mother.
Other relatives have plans.
At least I don’t have to clean the house,
shop, prepare food for twelve people,
pick up after everyone,
deal with leftovers
while men watch football,
women fail to be helpful,
children run around,
scream, argue, cry.
It’s not the same.
What do you remember about the Fourth of July when you were growing up?
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