LIKE A WEDDING
I got home the night before the parade at 10:30 pm after watching the Bristol fireworks, way past my bedtime by the way, with the prospect of having to set my alarm for four am. I had to be sure that I would be at least half dressed with coffee made in hand to make my way to Hope St. for the infamous chair set up. The chair set up that takes place at five am, but more likely at 3:30 am as parade attendees are eager to get the perfect spot in the shade on a 100 degree no breeze day. When I made my way to the corner to claim my stake of real estate on the hot corner, the entire street was already lined with not only chairs, but tents and people sitting and lying in the already baking humidity five hours ahead of the parade even starting! I got to witness two people arguing about said spots as one of my neighbors learned quickly that the five am mandated time was too late on this fourth of July. Surely this would be a hot topic in Bristol’s famous Speak Out section.
The Bristol 4th of July Parade is the oldest July 4th celebration in the country. It is a force to be reckoned with as families and friends gather like a family reunion cooking much too much food, drinking and eating too much, and cheering for the politicians, the kids, the military and all of the other marchers who brave the excruciating temperature and humidity that always seems to land on our proud and happiest of days. It brings out the best of people and my neighbors who have welcomed me into their tribe on a street filled with residents who have been part of the fabric of this community for two and three generations. We scream, we cheer, we laugh our guts out. We, or rather I, jump out and kiss and hug all of the politicians and people we know in the parade. We dance and sing and basically let loose celebrating life and the unique perch we get to sit on living in Americana 101. And even better for me now, living within about forty steps of the actual parade route without living on the actual parade route. The best of both worlds. And this year, add to the glorious mix, the installation of central AC in my house and life doesn’t get any better.
People stopped in all day yesterday to say hi, to use the bathroom, to cool down, to grab some water and to say hello. I welcomed some new friends who I have been sitting next to the past few years from Prudence Island to wait in the ac for the ferry to take them back to their summer cottages. I invited the masses for the over achieving amount of food I had prepared always planning on too many and never having the amount of people I think I will have. My friend’s son and his friends stayed around for the second year in a row for what I think will now become an annual tradition of feeding them and I am all the happier of moms to do so. Potato salad, burgers, oreo cookie trifle, Ricottis’ sandwich platters, beer, Proseco and more and more and more.
What is it about holidays that cause this excess? That force normal healthy food abiding citizens like myself to blow all cares to the wind and instead prepare endless amounts of mayonnaise and Cool Whip laden treats? I am not sure, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. It is the best of our town leading both up to the day and the actual day. From the really nice and engaging police officer assigned to our corner named Peter to the DPW in charge of cleaning up after to the entire group of volunteers who fund raise and organize for the parade year round, Bristol’s fourth of July experience is the best time of the year. Lucky to live here, we move through June with the eager anticipation like little ones waking up to Christmas morning on the day of the parade, but also anticipating the let down of July 5th, when it is all over.
Like a wedding with no honeymoon planned, especially now since time seems to be accelerating at a faster rate than ever, July 5TH looms like a dark cloud for me knowing that it will come (and go) at the blink of an eye. I have actually found myself this parade anticipating the day with a feeling of anti climatic vigor as early as the first concert at Independence Park on June 21ST. This is ridiculous, I know. Waking up today on July 5th looking at myself in the mirror wondering where my eyes went, and not sure if I would ever be able to fit a ring on my swollen fingers again, I was not as melancholy as I had anticipated. We joke here in Bristol about a few things, that when the parade is over, so is summer, that when it is July 5th the planning for next year’s parade begins and lots of other funny commentary. For me and my business, I always say that when it is July 4th, it is Christmas and when it is Christmas, it is July 4th. It sounds like I am wishing time away, but I am not at all. I like having things to look forward to, to share my zest and my enthusiasm for the joy of living in a small town filled with generations of people who appreciate its funk and its big heart.
My grandfather who is fast approaching 101, has done these types of “carrots” as I call them, giving him these milestones to look forward to, my son’s Bar Mitzvah, his graduation from high school, events that peak his interests in his family and his life that keep him going. I am not sure that this is a conscious decision or an intuitive one, but it is a useful one surely. I like having events and milestones to look forward to. I also love knowing that every day each and every one of us wakes up breathing is an event in itself as so many young people in my circle have left us too soon or are not sure if they will have the privilege of waking up tomorrow.
July 5th for me this year is not the end of summer as I had dreaded semi jokingly, but instead the start of summer. Where reality comes back into my life in a good and calm way, where a case of wine might actually last me for two months instead of two weeks. I work really hard at life because I love life. I work out hard, I eat healthy, I take care of myself and my employees, my friends and my family. When these rare and joyous occasions arrive, I am all the happier to let it all go to celebrate the freedoms we have and I fully plan on doing this every year for all of the days of my lucky life.
To more gatherings, and of course to next July 4th!