Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #1584279
The Fourth of July always seems to make for interesting memories.
|“Oh cool, Pa!” Blake covered the mouthpiece on the phone. “Mom! Mom! Listen to what Pa is doing with me tomorrow. We get to be in a parade, play in the river, softball, watch turtle races, fire works, and then campin’!”|
“Blake, my gosh, take a breath, son.”
“But we are! All in one day. Pa said.” His smile filled the room.
“Let me see the phone a minute,” I said already reaching for it. “Dad, you can’t make false promises. It’s not fair; he’s only six. He doesn’t understand when circumstances interfere.”
“I’d never let my little buddy down, Sandy.”
“Not intentionally. Dad, those are all outside activities. It always rains on the Fourth of July.”
“Don’t be silly. We’re practically havin’ a drought. Besides a little rain never hurt anyone.”
I rolled my eyes, smiling. “You’re going to camp in the rain with a six-year-old?”
“It’s not gonna rain. Ya’ll just come up on the Fourth. It’ll be great.”
“I’ll bring the umbrella,” I said hanging up.
The shrill of the phone woke me at 6:45 a.m. Before I could even mutter ‘hello’, my dad was barking orders.
“Dad, what’s the hurry? The parade isn’t ‘til 10:00.” I listened as he warned me about traffic and told me for the hundredth time what to bring. I tried to respond patiently. “Dad, we’ll be there. I promise.” Catching myself before hanging up, I remembered to ask, "Hey, is it raining there?”
Dad hesitated. “Nah, just spittin’ a little.”
Unenthusiastically, I went to get Blake ready. To my shock, my normally late sleeper, was sitting on his bed with his new patriotic shirt, hat, and jean shorts on, and his backpack on his lap. The look on his face was similar to the one kids have on Christmas morning. I should have expected this. After all, nothing was better than a day with his grandpa on the farm.
Packing the car with extra clothes, camping gear, and potato salad, I tried to prepare Blake for the inevitable disappointment. He was hearing, but not listening.
“Mom, Pa says if it did rain, we ain’t manure, so we won’t melt. I’m not a baby anymore. Sometimes I gotta hang with the big boys. Man up.”
It was hard not to laugh as I heard my father’s words coming out of my son’s mouth. Blake was such a remarkable kid. His heart was good, just like his daddy’s. Though he never met his dad, their mannerisms were eerily alike.
Craig died when I was four months pregnant. There were no goodbyes, no last kiss. An aneurysm took his life and part of mine without warning. His assistant found him on the floor of his office, dead at thirty-five. It would have been hard to believe, if the loneliness hadn’t consumed my heart and home. Five months later, Blake was born. Part of Craig was with me again. Life was worth living.
“So, Mr. Big Man, you want to watch a DVD?”
“Nah, let’s just talk.”
The hour and a half drive flew by as we had discussions on baseball, why radios don't have pictures, and if dogs could learn to meow would they get along with cats.
“Are we almost there?”
“‘Bout five minutes.”
“It’s not rainin’. Pa was right.”
“I hope so, Blake,” I said, patting his knee as I stared at the dark clouds straight ahead.
Driving through the one stoplight town, I noticed people milling around in anticipation of a fifteen minute parade. I love the small town atmosphere, though as a teen I couldn’t break out fast enough. Now it brings comfort, familiarity, and a sense of pride.
My dad was waiting on his Ural motorcycle at the Sak-n-Go gas station. I couldn't believe my eyes. My father was dressed in an Uncle Sam suit. He had grown his white beard out for a more authentic look. It didn’t seem possible that this was the firm-handed parent that raised me. The years and a few grandchildren do soften a man.
Blake nearly jumped out of the car before it even stopped.
“Pa, I made a sign to hold in the parade!” He held up the poster he had worked two hours on the previous night. In bright red, blue, and silver were the words ‘God Bless the USA’.
“Looks great, Buddy. Hop in the sidecar. We’ll go grab our place near the front. Lanin and Nik are meetin' us. Sandy, your mom is waiting for you in front of Don’s Drugstore.”
They zoomed off, the funniest looking bikers I'd ever seen.
Standing with my mother and sister, we craned our necks to get a look at Pa’s posse. Not surprisingly, it was then that I felt the slow drip of big raindrops. Of course, I'd left the umbrella in the car.
“Don’t even say it, Sandy. We’ve heard about your weather prediction,” Mom said teasingly.
A few raindrops quickly turned into a full-blown summer shower. At least it cooled the air, even if we were soaking wet.
My sister, Amy, laughed. “It’s just like that time Dad threw us in the river with our clothes on. Remember how fun that was after we got over the initial shock? We played forever, and when we got out our clothes felt like they weighed a ton.”
I hadn’t thought about that in years. So many memories were made here with family and friends. Wiping rain off my face, I wondered what memories would stay with Blake.
“Moooooom! People are clapping for us! They like us, Mom!”
My attention was immediately back on the parade. Blakie, Dad, and my ornery two nephews were waving to the masses. Blake had the poster over their heads, so that their new hats wouldn’t get wet. The carefully drawn letters were now a mass of patriotic smeared colors. I not only saw, but felt, the look of pure happiness on all their faces.
Later, we met up at the park. The rain had let up, but we were all drenched to the bone. The boys’ mouths were running a mile a minute. Their energy was contagious.
“Let’s go over to the sand boxes. The turtle races are about to start.” Dad was intent on keeping his promises. I watched as my hero led three unquestioning boys.
“I don’t know if any turtles are going to come out with this off and on weather.” Amy verbalized what we were all were thinking.
Ten turtles, inside their shells, were lined up in a row. The whistle blew. Nothing happened, except the cheering and encouragement from a mob of onlookers. About five minutes later, there was still no turtle movement. By this point the boys had named the shelled participants.
“I’m gonna get a hot dog. Come on,” I whispered to my mom and Amy. As we were sneaking away laughing, I heard Blake’s sharp squeal.
“Wooooo-weeeeee! Go, Toby, go!”
I turned around to see one lone turtle making a mad dash forward. The crowd burst into applause and shouts as if it were the final play in the Super Bowl.
And so the day continued. We played softball in the mud. The boys ruined their new clothes, and didn't receive a single scolding about it. Clothes could be replaced; hopefully, these memories would last a lifetime. They played in the river, pretending the rain coming down on them was the sky’s tears because it was sad it couldn’t swim with them. The cookout was tricky, but dashing from the grill to the house with the burgers and roasted vegetables became a race. Each person was timed, and the winner got to pick their burger first. Fireworks were also made into a contest. The rain was stubborn, but the boys and Pa would not be derailed. Sparklers were about all they could get lit, so they timed whose would spark the longest. The kids thought it was as good as the firework display at Disneyland.
Camping was the big obstacle. None of us women were going to give in to demands to camp out in the rain. Dad was too old for such nonsense, despite his objections. And the boys were too young. It was Blake that came up with the compromise.
“Let’s camp in the barn!”
It was a decision we could all live with. As the “womenfolk” loaded the men up with their supplies for the evening, we smiled as tired eyes of the young and old still twinkled with adventure. Giving them a kiss, they were off on the quarter-mile hike to the barn.
“Hey, Dad. Wait a sec,” I yelled.
“Sandy-girl, I’ll be careful with them,” he said over his shoulder.
“No, Dad. It’s not that. I just wanted to tell you. I’m so glad it always rains on the Fourth of July.”
Without prompting, three rugged little boys yelled. “So are we!”
Despite himself, my father couldn’t help his sheepish grin. And the journey of memory making continued for all.