With 2 days to go before Drew's real due date - the 4th - I couldn't be happier that she came to us early. For one, she is a joy and I can't imagine my life for the past 9 days any differently than with her in it.
But I'm also quite excited, because her earlier arrival means we'll get to go to my all-time favorite place in the world to spend the 4th of July - my hometown, Hood River. I feel like my 4th of July experiences growing up were sort of iconic and about as all-American as you can get...in a really great sort of way.
My memories of the day include waking up and heading to an early breakfast put on by the Mormon church I grew up in. We would all gather in the parking lot and sing patriotic hymns like God Bless America and America the Beautiful while the Cub Scouts raised the flag and a trumpeter (often my dad or my brother) played Taps. Then we'd all head inside for a buffet of eggs, pancakes, fruit, etc with all the people in our church community.
Next, we'd head to one of the main streets in Hood River and find a good spot to watch one of the best small town parades I've ever seen. People cheer for all the runners on the last stretch of their 5K (a number of whom you inevitably know personally), and children flood the streets to pick up Brach's candy and bubblegum while fire engines, local 4-H groups, and spruced up old-timey cars roll by.
The parade ends at Jackson Park, where for several years my dad played trumpet in one of the bands performing. People barbecued and picnicked, and kids threw water balloons and ate shaved ice to keep cool in the scorching heat.
By this time, we'd head back to my mom's house to regroup and have some down time, while the sounds of the little league playoffs were audible from the field across the street. "Next up to bat: Timmy. On Deck: Jeremy!" Please return all foul balls to the concession stand for a free snow cone!"
For dinner, we'd barbecue at home or at our family friend's house, then head to the Marina looking over the Columbia River for a spectacular fireworks show launched from the Washington State river bank, where all the big ones are legal.
There are some things that shift and change so much from childhood to adulthood that they become unrecognizable. Like my childhood home that was bulldozed a few years ago--where an empty lot now sits waiting for something new.
But the 4th of July in Hood River remains mostly unchanged. The small town parade, the barbecue at a family friend's place, and the fireworks show... the sights and sounds and smells are all still accessible to me, and it gives me a sense of comfort and stability in my life that I think is rare in a time when our culture and surroundings change rapidly.
4th of July, here I come-- this time with my own children's memories in the making.