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Fried Chicken, Fireworks, & the Fourth of July

Jill Garvey • Jul 04, 2008

I’m a bad American. There’s a lot of reasons, but I’ll just mention a few of the obvious ones. I don’t like meat - hot dogs, baloney, cold cuts, big macs, meat loaf, cheese steak - hate ‘em all. In fact, I’m a vegetarian. The sizing system at Starbucks? Still haven’t figured it out (I know, pretty pathetic). I haven’t owned a TV in five years - haven’t seen one episode of the Sopranos or Lost…in my entire life. Birthday cake grosses me out, mostly the frosting part. I don’t have a car, an ipod or a myspace page. I can’t even remember the words to the Pledge of Allegiance! So, yeah, I’m a crappy American.

Here it is though, I have a confession. My favorite holiday is the fourth of July. And the reason it’s my favorite is because of fried chicken. Sounds strange I know, but let me explain. My family used to have a fried chicken picnic every July 4th; always the same spot on a grassy hill overlooking the harbor near our house. But wait, it gets better.

Earlier in the day we would attend, or sometimes host our neighborhood’s famous backyard pancake breakfast. The hosts made the pancakes, and everyone brought another dish, usually bacon (I swear you’ve never seen so many plates of bacon!). Afterwards we would go to the town fair - jump in the moonwalk until we were sick, have our faces painted, get soaked in the water balloon toss, and maybe take a whirl on the miniature ponies. Depending on the leniency of my mom that particular year my brother and I may have even split a funnel cake or a root beer float. Regardless, by late afternoon, our minds inevitably turned to fried chicken. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, coleslaw and from-the-box brownies to be exact.

The whole neighborhood would bring their picnics down to the harbor and after eating we’d all cram onto sailboats to watch the fireworks. The dinghies would buzz back and forth, frantically trying to get everyone out in time. One year, too many people jumped onto a dinghy and it capsized. Everyone was still talking about it the following year (it was a big to-do) and from then on the dinghy drivers were allowed to yell at people who got out of hand.

The best spot on a boat was the front deck where you could stretch out on your back and look straight up to the sky. It felt like those colorful flames were going to rain right down on top of you. I still remember all the names my brother and I made up for the fireworks - the weeping willows, the crackleys and whistlers - and that thrill when one of them shot up so high it seemed to disappear and then BOOM! It was suddenly a hundred shooting stars.

After the show we’d head back to shore, and with the smoldering coals of the BBQ pits we’d roast marshmallows until they were gooey and burnt. Then we’d light our sparklers and run all the way home, slaying stormtroopers with our light sabers…er, sparklers, all the way. Every year I’d get the same sad feeling as soon as I arrived at our back gate. I’d see the dark empty house, the fireflies silently flickering in the yard and I’d realize that Fourth of July was over. I’d have to wait an eternity (364 days) to do it again.

I still get that feeling now, no matter what I do or who I’m with, I get a little sad when it’s all over. It’s goes against all my sensibilities to love the 4th of July. Funny enough I love it not in spite of the grossly American activities (junk food, consumerism & pyrotechnics), but specifically because of all those things. I truly love it because its a sticky, excessive, loud, flag-waving, fat mess! Oh and all that freedom stuff? That’s part of it too.

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