The Fourth of July seemed to be my father’s favorite holiday, maybe because it was celebrated outdoors, or perhaps because it didn’t involve the stress of decorating, the expense of gift-giving, or having a holiday meal indoors with a host of rowdy relatives. We always celebrated with his relatives, a spectacularly fertile family. Everyone of them had four to six children, exponentially more horrible as the families grew. Though no one ever drank at our gatherings, the wild shrieking of the kids and rowdy hijinks of the adults certainly gave that impression.
There was always barbecue, usually a goat or pig, sometimes slow cooked in a pit over night, accompanied by mountains of potato salad, slaw, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, baked beans, cakes, watermelons, and several freezers of homemade ice-cream. At any time a squalling kid or two bowled over by one of the bigger ones might be sitting atop a freezer holding a washcloth to a knot on his head while his daddy cranked it. There were plenty of cousins for two baseball teams, made even better if some aunts and uncles joined in. It was a job keeping the little guys out of the baselines , but most of them survived it.
Long before the days of paper plates, clean up was a nightmare. Lots of women thought “the girls” ought to do dishes. Thank God, Mother stuck up for us, but if we were at someone else’s house with teenage daughter’s, their mothers might insist. Cleanup for thirty or forty people could take a couple of hours. that was a nightmare for just two or three.
i loved to slip up on the women in the family and hear gossip. Should I be foolish enough to ask a question, I was busted outdoors. I usually couldn’t keep my mouth shut long enough to hear the good stuff.
In the dusk, we chased fireflies until time to light fireworks, thrilling to the Roman Candles and Sparklers. I never learned to love firecrackers again after exploding one in my hand. As the darkness closed in, Mothers spread quilts on the ground as the storytelling began, delightful tales of long ago childhood pranks, old family stories, and finally after the younger ones drifted off, ghost stories, made all the more delicious because Maw Maw believed every world she told. There is no better story tha one told by a true believer. How I would love to revisit one of those nights!