Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 10, 2009

Get used to it

As husband Art and I sat on Mom's back deck watching "Thunder over Manhattan," I lamented the fact that it was just the two of us and youngest daughter Katie watching the Fourth of July fireworks.

"Get used to it," he said.

Oldest daughter Mariya, who turns 23 this week, was in Council Grove to celebrate the three-day weekend with friends. Mom, sister Gaila and niece Larisa were in St. Paul to be with my other niece Gabriela. Brother Dave, sister-in-law Linda and Linda's mother Dolores had eaten supper with us, but had gone to Cico Park to be closer to the displays. Mom's friend Stan ate supper with us and then "bugged out" to go home.

I sighed.

After so many years of having a big bash for Independence Day, it was disconcerting to have such a small group. I had made enough potato salad, deviled eggs and baked beans for an army, and Art had grilled so many chicken breasts and brats that we had enough leftover food to last us for days.

After supper, as the three of us sat on the deck, my mind wandered to past Fourth of July holidays.

When Mariya, Katie, Gabriela and Larisa were little, we usually celebrated the holiday at my parents' farm near Burns. Gaila and I dressed the girls in look-alike red, white and blue outfits for the occasion. Our picnics in the yard usually included dessert of watermelon and homemade ice cream, brought over by family friend Tom Grimwood. Gaila and I would light the "safe" snakes and sparklers while Art would shoot off the noisy firecrackers a safe distance away.

Other years, we stayed closer to home for the parade, picnic and pyrotechnics in Keats Park, followed by our own "show"at our house. After the Keats celebration was discontinued and my folks moved to Manhattan, we began having our annual July 4th get-together at their house in town.

One year, Art had been in Wisconsin in late June and the girls were afraid that he wouldn't be back in time to help us celebrate.

"We need to wait for Uncle Art to come back," Larisa said. "He buys the dangerous firecrackers."

I guess some things don't change that much. When Dave, Linda and Dolores returned from the "Thunder over Manhattan" celebration and after a friend of Katie's stopped by, Art shot off the firecrackers that Katie and I had purchased the day before. They had exotic names - Hawaiian Sunset, 100-Shot Barrage, Chinese New Year, Missile Attack and Desert at Night.

At first, Art lit a few from the step, almost daring us to say something about it being dangerous. When Linda, Dolores, Katie and I admonished him to launch them away from the house, he relented. We "oohed" and "ahed" at the flaming balls, showers and parachutes that shot over the house.

And I decided that even though I need to "get used to" the changing make-up of our Independence Day gatherings, I can still enjoy the people who come, be thankful for the freedoms we have - and be awed by the colors, streaming lights and booms, crackles and shrieks that make up the July 4th night sky. It's still a cause for celebration.

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