It's not the Fourth of July here (well, it is technically still the 4th of July, but you know what I mean), but I'll be thinking of all of you in the US and remembering all those wonderful childhood Fourth of July's I spent on Lake Skaneateles in upstate NY, watching the fireworks, eating clam chowder and homemade strawberry ice cream, learning to waterski, learning to drink beer (shh... don't tell), playing UNO (somehow that was the only weekend of the year I ever played), watching the sunset over that big tree just by the point, homemade egg mcmuffins for breakfast, tubing, skipping stones, eating again, and still more eating (yes, that was a theme)... So many memories.
It was only 4 days a year, but I grew up on that lake. The house (two houses actually, but we mainly slept at one and spent most of our days at the other) was owned by my father's best friend from college. It had been in his wife's family for several generations already by that time and had the character that only an old country lake house could have. My father, his friend and several other fraternity brothers first spent the weekend there the year they graduated from college, and someone had the sense to recognize that they had something worth repeating. They came back the following year for the Fourth of July, and again every year after that for the next 20 years, gradually adding girlfriends, and then wives, and children, and then more children. Over the years we children grew up together almost as cousins. Traditions for the Fourth took on a life of their own, from the food, to the fireworks, to the annual picture of all the children arranged in size order (where I started out nearly at the front and ended up way down the line as some of these toddlers later turned into linebackers!), it was the magic that memories are made out of. The year the ice cream maker had a hole in it and all the ice cream turned salty. The year we older kids were finally allowed to take the boat out alone. The year the beach flooded. The year an exchange student from Thailand joined us. The year my father had to stand there with an upturned colander on his head to boost his friend's cellular antenna (no we didn't really get it either, but it apparently worked. Looked ridiculous, but worked.) So many memories, so much history...
It's all gone now. The children grew up and made lives of their own. An unnecessary feud between two of the families started putting a strain on things, and then the untimely and completely unexpected deaths of the house's owners ended "our" Fourth completely. Somehow growing up it always felt like it would go on forever, that my grandchildren would someday be learning to waterski in the same cold water I did, laughing about dock starts and remembering the time so and so grabbed that beer off the dock as he went by. I never foresaw my own moving 6,000 miles away, but by then things were already losing their lustre and the writing was on the wall.
I live in Israel now, where the Fourth of July is just another work day, notable only for the start of swimming lessons this afternoon. My own children don't have the Fourth at the lake, but they've got the Festival, and beachside barbecues, and joint holiday celebrations, and hopefully these will weave the same magic throughout their childhood. The individual threads will be different, but I hope that the overall picture will be just as treasured.