Saturday, July 4, 2009

Heritage Days

The town where I grew up in Maine celebrates Heritage Days each Fourth of July, and has done for as long as I can remember: three days of almost every magical childhood tradition one can imagine: a parade, games, a firemen's muster, a strongman competition, a strawberry shortcake festival, a carnival on the waterfront, music, fireworks and this year even a whoopie pie-eating contest.    
This year, as we watched the parade on the main street in town--a pretty street lined with 19th-century buildings along brick sidewalks--my sister and I reminisced about the once-a-year homemade red, white, and blue ice creams we'd always buy at Hallett's Drugstore after the parade when we were kids.  I also got to thinking about how we'd watch the fireworks over the river some years from behind the big plate glass window in the employees' lounge of the grocery store my father managed in those days. I always felt like we had the best seat in town, high up over the river, drinking Cokes (from glass bottles, of course) and eating donuts.  Hallett's is long gone, as is Sampson's Supermarket, and my father passed away when I was a teenager, but still, we come back to watch the parade on the same street, just one door down from Dad's old storefront where my mother, her sister, and their good friend have owned a wonderful antiques shop for the past several years.  Friends and family gather with portable chairs to watch the fire trucks and local bands.  My nephews sit on on the curb at our feet with the other kids, just like we used to, and we all cheer for the muster crews, the Shriners, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.    
We come to celebrate and remember and to give thanks for our many freedoms.  I haven't lived in my hometown in 23 years, and I often feel like an outsider when I return, but on the Fourth of July, I am transported back to what, when I was a kid, was my favorite holiday, partly because we were allowed to consume all the potato salad, ice cream, and strawberry shortcake we wanted, and partly because by the time the firemen's muster was over, we were soaked and happy on a steamy day.  Plus, come nightfall, the carnival turned into a fairyland of lights.  But the biggest reason I loved the Fourth of July was that my father was at the center of that weekend, grilling burgers, giving shoulder rides, and singing songs.  
Today my feelings about this holiday are bittersweet, but I still love it, and I am amazed that I can come back after all this time to the same brick sidewalks in the same old town and find family and friends who have always known me, and who always welcome me back like I never left.


  1. Hi Gigi, thank you so much for dropping by and commenting.

    I've so enjoyed reading your posts, Dill is rather nice, looks so intelligent, your more stationary muse is lovely!

    That escort card is fabulous!

    This current post is beautifully written, thanks for sharing those memories and thoughts.xx

    I'll be back.

  2. Thank you very much! I just went back to peek at your blog because I keep thinking of that lovely photo of the bedroom you included in your last post--so inspiring. I may need to to a room very much like that in my next house. Until then, it will be nice to dream about!
    xo Gigi

  3. Beautiful post, Gigi!

    So glad to have discovered your blog... :)

  4. Your memory of childhood 4th of July celebrations sounds so romantic! It's wonderful that you get to go back home and spend the holiday with people you love.

    Growing up, the day never seemed to be a big deal in either my town or with my family, and as a result I now spend it rather restlessly, wondering what to do and feeling a little left out. Maybe in the future I'll find some festivities to adopt, or make my own. This post inspires me.

  5. Thanks, Miss Bliss and m. heart! My memories of the Fourth ARE pretty romantic, which is funny because most of my childhood memories aren't. They aren't terrible or anything, but I don't tend to romanticize being a kid. The Fourth, however, was pure fun to me. I think this had something to do with the fact that, unlike Christmas or Thanksgiving, there weren't so many expectations placed on it. We weren't sitting around a table together the whole time or cooped up on a cold day. We were out running around, so there wasn't a lot of holiday tension. I know what you mean about feeling left out, though, m. heart, because that is exactly how I always feel about New Years. I've never felt a real connection to that celebration. Maybe I'll have to dream something up for the next one!

  6. GiGi,

    You are such an incredible writer! While reading this post, I could just taste the strawberry shortcake, hear the sounds of friends and family laughter, and feel the ice cold glass cola in my hands!

    Your hometown celebrates the 4th perfectly, and I love that you return for such pleasures.


  7. A whoopie-pie eating contest? I can feel an entire short story coming on. Oh, it does sound lovely - Heritage Days, I mean.

  8. Hi Gigi, thank you so much for such kind comments and for staying. I love your site too, have left a msg for you back at mine.

    ps am adding you to my blogroll.


Thank you so much for visiting and for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing from you.