“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”
Three days after my poignant walk around Northport Village*, I was back in Cambridge to celebrate the Fourth of July. My son stayed an extra week in New York, so just my husband, daughter, and I headed to Memorial Drive to picnic, and then watch the fireworks on the Charles River.
Since moving to Cambridge nearly nine years ago, we’ve only missed one Independence Day in this spot. Two years ago it rained, and though it cleared by the time they set off the fireworks, I’d already put the kids to bed.
The first year, I was VERY pregnant with a due date of July 16th. My nearly four-year-old son didn’t like the noise, and so he insisted I hold him though the thirty-minute display. Did I mention it was during a heat wave? Did I mention I gained 35 pounds? Did I mention he hated loud noise? Picture me, big, hot, balancing the boy on my left hip, holding his body with my left hand, while my right came around to cover his ear as he pressed his cheek to mine to cover the other ear. I thought for sure I’d go into labor on the spot, but my daughter decided to overstay until July 24th.
In the intervening years we’ve taken our children and various friends and family members to celebrate. The Boston Pops always play and they always have a guest singer. Last year was Neil Diamond, which is a big deal for Red Sox fans, who lovingly sing “Sweet Caroline” for each game at Fenway. They pipe the music on loudspeakers to the Cambridge side as we lounge on the grassy areas that make up Memorial Highway.
This year, we decided to go a few hours early even though it meant my daughter would drag me to the port-o-potties more than once. (And for fun, she usually REALLY needs to go just minutes before the fireworks begin.) We brought wine, cheese, bread, barbecue chicken, and fruit salad. I forgot the wine opener, so my husband had to find someone who had also snuck wine, ask to borrow an opener, and promise to bring it back. (Note to readers: barbecue chicken + a little girl is a messy affair.) It was a lovely view of the Boston skyline as we ate:
After we finished eating, we took a stroll down the highway, and up the ramp near the Longfellow Bridge. Spotting the people lined along the bridge reminded me of standing on a bridge in Paris waiting for the Eiffel Tower to shimmer.
Unlike the year I was pregnant, the weather was perfect. It wasn’t too humid. It wasn’t too hot. A breeze caressed us. When it was nearly time, we stood, and walked a little closer, squished between hordes of other viewers. Our display is always well after sundown since it’s nationally televised. By 10:45 pm, it finally began. Here’s a glimpse of it:
When it was over, we put our daughter in the Red Flyer wagon we bring every year that also carried our supplies, and took the fifteen-minute walk back to our home. My child fell asleep and received many comments like, “I wish someone would pull me in a wagon,” that she didn’t hear.
We arrived home and I put my daughter to bed. From our living room my husband and I watched traffic stop in go outside our window for a long while, making us grateful we live close enough to walk.
The entire evening, I thought about how lucky I am to live this close to Boston. Even though Cambridge is missing that freshly cut lawn scent and the Charles River doesn’t smelly salty, and it’s more crowded and noisy than a suburban town like Northport, the place has its charms. Sprawled on the grass and strolling along Memorial Drive reminded me why we live here. And I relished in the thought that I have the home I go back to as often as I want, as well as this home.