What was your 4th of July like when you were growing up? For a lot of years, ours wasn’t anything too terribly special. Maybe a trip to a lake or park for a picnic. A few “safe and Sane” fireworks at home in the cul de sac.
After we moved to California’s central coast, our longest-running tradition became the church picnic. Even though the church was right across the street from a park, we always reserved space at another park that was equipped to host the entertainment for the day-- the High School vs the "old guys" softball game, little kids three-legged races, the church-wide water balloon toss. It was fun to have all ages at the same thing at the same time rather than segregated by age and stage like we usually were at church.
The other advantage was it was the only place that offered enough picnic tables to hold the abundant potluck buffet that was the centerpiece of the gathering (isn’t food always the centerpiece?) I'm a tad picky about my food (ok, that’s sort of a massive understatement). If it's supposed to be hot, I want it really hot, so I'm not fond of lasagna and hot-dishes an hour out of the oven. I won’t eat ANYthing with mayo or mustard so that leaves out all salads (potato, pasta, etc) with unidentifiable dressings, and most sandwiches since I can never really be sure what’s spread on that bread. I’m not a fan of onions or olives…can you see how that would create problems at the typical church potluck? (Funny that I have memories of all the stuff I wouldn’t/couldn’t eat!)
But I have memories of what I did eat too. Someone always brought a bucket of KFC (Original Recipe--you know, those eleven herbs and spices) and there were enough jello dishes and fruit salads to fill the rest of my plate.
Mostly though, I came for dessert. I wouldn’t care if I only got the skin off a thigh in the KFC bucket if I had a good shot at the dessert table. Specifically, Mrs. Katekaru's fresh blackberry cobbler. Made with berries from their yard (blackberries don't grow wild in California the same way they do in the northwest, so it was a special treat). I could usually count on some brownies and chocolate cupcakes with white frosting (with colored sugar or sprinkles) to round out my meal. And yes, I was over 18 for most of those picnics. I can’t help it if my food tastes were stunted when I was 5 or 6!
(And to all of you who’ll be a this year’s picnic feasting on tri-tip and emptying the coolers on Todd—beware Todd, it’s tradition—wish we could see you, but we’ll be at our new church picnic. The tradition continues, just a little different.)
My most memorable fourth was unlike any of the others though. It was fourteen years ago (yes, 14!) and it was our first morning to wake as a married couple. We planned the rest of our honeymoon together, but Hubs planned that second night as a surprise for me. We packed up the car the day after our wedding and headed north, up the coast, to San Francisco. He surprised me with reservations at the historic Fairmont Hotel.
The room we were originally assigned didn't quite measure up to our expectations, so we got moved from the tiny (smoky smelling) "Garden Suite" (that looked out onto some kind of alley) to a "Business Suite." I guess it was called that because it was set up with a fax machine and desk, but our extra $10 got us a two-room suite that was bigger than many New York apartments. Two full baths, a beautiful king bedroom, and a spacious comfortable living room. The windows looked out over the Bay and included a view of the fireworks over Alcatraz. Best fireworks display ever! And the most romantic surprise I’d ever had. Maybe we'll have the opportunity to repeat history for our 15th anniversary next year!
What are your favorite memories/traditions? What did you do for the holiday?