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LIKE A WEDDING

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!






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THE DAY AFTER

THE DAY AFTER

July 4th in Bristol, RI every year is like a wedding. Like an engagement, the planning begins the day after the event and goes full throttle until the big day, usually the following year. Being the oldest and longest running parade in the country, Bristol, RI’s famous July 4th gets a lot of attention and with great reason; it is Americana 101. Good old fashioned family get togethers, back yard barbeques, outdoor concerts and everything in between.

Like a wedding that doesn’t have a honeymoon scheduled the next day, though, July 5th comes with a heavy heart. For many Bristolians, a word for anyone who is born here (in actuality, it is a word some Bristol residents say to describe not only being born here, but being born HERE, like in your actual house and being part of a family who has lived here several generations ago) there is a big let down. I am not a “Bristolian” in the self proclaimed definition sense, but since I have resided here, for half of my 52 year old life, raised our son, have started and maintained my business here and been a community activist here, I will go out on a limb to say that I consider myself part of the tribe we call Bristol. I may not have the bragging rights to say that I have a large circle of family generations, but if Bristol were to be defined by community and love of town, I am definitely a proud, card bearing resident and I love the July 4th celebration.

July 4th in Bristol, RI is even more of a blast if you have a house on or near the parade route and for the past four years, I do. My son and I have the best of both worlds because our house is only four houses down from the actual route so it is easy to participate or avoid the madness depending on your mood (or the sun) on the day.

The first rule of the July 4th parade here is to wake up at the un-Godly hour of 3:30 or 4:00am so you can prepare to claim your stakes on a good spot to place your chairs. Even though there are signs everywhere saying that placing chairs before 5am is not allowed, there are no chair police patrolling our end of the street which is usually the residents and not the tourists. For some people like my favorite neighbor, Dottie, who is 84 and has lived next door for over seventy years, there is a science to the process.

She places like twenty chairs and makes sure she gets the “family spot” under a shady tree. She gets up there and starts her patrol at about 4am. I am guessing here, because I am still sleeping. On hot days, which is usually the case, this has proven to be an excellent strategy. My strategy is when I go to bed on July 3rd, I say, “if I wake up at 4:30, I will place chairs, if not I will take what is left.” This year, I woke up at 4:30 so I just walked up to the corner in my jammies and took the spot that no one wants because it is in the straight sun. I placed my chairs and blanket and voila done in five minutes, no stress. Actually, in all of the years I have lived here, I have only done the chair thing one other time and that was when my mother was visiting over fifteen years ago. My son and I know so many people on the route, that we have always just gone to their houses and done the freeloading thing. I am in the good enough circle. For true Bristolians, like Dottie, this is sacrilege. After all we are talking tradition here.

This year though, I was hosting a big fest, the first time in our house I have done this. This was our fourth year living directly in town (this means that we live in a place where after 8am, you basically cannot leave because the streets are closed off). The previous years, I just kept it to inviting a couple, small and intimate. This year though, I went all out. Maybe it was because this was my son’s first summer back from his first year of college or because of the incredible energy I have felt since I have recovered from my double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery three months ago. I just want to celebrate life often with my son and the people I call family. And celebrate we did.

I cooked too much food, a prerequisite for Bristol, July 4th festivity, I drank too much too early, another rule, thank you Gasbarros for the Proseco recommendation, no hangover. (Another reason to buy, along with great food, great wine.) I claimed parking spots on the street so I could make sure to have enough room for my guests to park in the driveway and I cooked up a storm. Baked French toast and blueberry cake, afterall, when your day starts at 4:30am, people have to eat breakfast. Burgers, lasagna, dips, baked ziti, salads, and about five desserts. Completely unnecessary, but for some reason, tradition. The shopping, the decorating, the organizing gives me such pleasure that though I wake up with a heavy sad heart at yet another July 4th gone by, I am so satisfied that I hosted and created a tradition. Perhaps this is one of the many lessons I have learned from my neighbor. No matter how exhausted or wiped this party that basically starts on Flag Day gets us, there is an inordinate amount of joy it brings to our lives. I know that I participated and created my own tradition the way I dictate and if this is the torch that Dottie and my dear friend Marcia (the person I have basically parade freeloaded from for the past fifteen years) have taught me, it is the importance of continuity and tradition. Though I may not have family abounding around here besides my son and my partner and his son, we make our own family with deep rooted connections of friendships and pretend families. Often times these connections are even more satisfying then the real deal.

And I can’t wait until next year to do it all again.

Thank you July 4th committee for your hard work in making sure that this family affair continues boldly and brightly.







and a great time was had by all.