Friday, July 16, 2010


View of Boston on July 4th

“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.”

~Erma Bombeck

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.

At sunset.

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.



  1. That's a sweet family custom. : j
    I can picture your kids in ten or twenty years blogging (or whatever equivalent the future holds for us) about the memorial drive fireworks over the river and the picnic.

    I never had anything like that in my family. : j

  2. Aw...that is so nice. I love the sunset photo. Just hopped over from Matt's blog. Nice blog. ";-)

  3. @ Alesa, I hope they have fond memories of our tradition on the fourth.

    You didn't do anything big for Bastille Day?

    Salarsen, thanks for visiting!

  4. Nope... We didn't celebrate Easter, Christmas, or Golden Week either.

    Calendar holidays just weren't a part of our family culture... Perhaps in part because of being a cultural cocktail, but also most certainly because of our various personalities.

  5. Beautiful images, Theresa. How inspiring to be surrounded by such Americana ... Boston, family and fireworks. That's what holidays are all about :)

  6. Aww, that's so nice that your family has this tradition. I bet the kids really appreciate it, too. Thanks for sharing (and I love the sunset picture -- so pretty!)

  7. Sounds like you made some wonderful memories! What a great tradition. Thanks for sharing!

  8. A friend of mine lives in Cambridge and he absolutely loves it! After this post, I have to visit, I love picnics!

    I`m glad to know you had a great 4th of july!

  9. That sounds perfect. I love the fourth of July! I think it's just as fun as Christmas, but with no work and no expense. Great post!

  10. @ Alesa, I don't know what Golden Week is, but it's a shame you weren't celebrating it. It's a whole week, after all.

    Do you celebrate holidays now?

    @ Sheila, thanks. Of course, they were more spectacular in real life. I couldn't fit it all in the camera's lens.

    @ Joanne, it really is special to celebrate fireworks here.

    @ Shelley, my husband loves fireworks. Every year, we go to First Night on New Year's Eve for fireworks too. I prefer to see them when it's not freezing cold!

  11. @ Lydia, I never thought about it being a tradition until I wrote this post. I guess if I didn't stay in New York any longer specifically to not miss the fireworks it IS a tradition.

    @ Clara, you should visit. Let me know if you do. I'd love to meet you for coffee or something.

    @ Angie, thanks. Fourth of July certainly is cheaper and easier to celebrate than Christmas.

  12. Sounds wonderful! We've had to carry kids through more than a few fireworks displays too. :)

  13. Awww I love your sweet memory of when you were very pregnant and was comforting your son! How lovely!

    Thanks for the clip of the fireworks - it looked absolutey spectacular!!!

    And your pics of Boston are so enticing - the skyline just perfect!

    Glad you and your family had a wonderful and peaceful and highly enjoyable 4th of July!

    Take care

  14. Theresa, you write recounts so beautifully.... and then seamlessly bring the reader into the present day. I always smile when reading your blog.

  15. Not really. Though I do try to make an effort for Christmas, my significant other cares about that one. And if I lived in the US I'd definitely make costumes for Halloween. Two years ago, we were in SF for it, and we made costumes.

    Golden week is period over which several holidays take place in Japan.

  16. Great story, a lovely family tradition.
    Loved the light in the photos!

  17. You have recreated very well the beautiful city in which you enjoy a valued family tradition.

  18. The love of fireworks was one of the few things my mom and I had in common. The last time I got to see any, she and I, and my nephew (he was young) had gone to a grocery store and the local baseball team had a huge season ending display. We sat in the parking lot and watched the whole thing. That was in '93. Thanks for posting the clip. I remember when John Williams conducted the Boston Pops-and they're right where you live-sweet. Loved this post, you have a way of verbally 'dressing the set' and presenting the the tale, leaving your audience feeling like they've just had a giant slice of feel-good and washed it down with a glass of blissful sighs. (Just typing what popped into my head...?)

  19. @ Jemi, I'm always grateful we have the wagon at the end otherwise we'd be carrying them home. This year, my son wasn't with us. He's too big to fit in the wagon and to be carried, so he'll have to walk next time.

    @ Old Kitty, thank you. While Boston is the prettier city overall, they have a worse view across the water looking at us.

    @ Clutterbug, thank you. That's a huge compliment.

    @ Alesa, every year I love Halloween more and more. It's so much fun.

  20. That's wonderful that you have your family to share holidays with. Cambridge sounds interesting; someday I'd like to see it.

  21. @ Al, I know how many great photos you take so it's nice you like mine.

    @ Paul C, thank you. I hope you all have a better picture of life here.

    @ The Words Crafter, my father avoided fireworks like the plague (doesn't like crowds, traffic) so I didn't view many fireworks until I became an adult.

    My dad always liked The Boston Pops and now I get to hear them each year.

    What's popped into your head isn't just such a nice thing to say but shows you are a words crafter!

  22. Lovely post, Theresa. I love the picnic idea, I agree, you are creating lovley memories for your kids - you are a memory-maker.

  23. @ Neurotic Workaholic, you should come to Cambridge and Boston. They'd seem tiny compared with Chicago.

    @ Brigid, thanks. I love they look back and have plenty of lovely memories.

  24. I love Boston - it's one of my favourite spots. Your fourth sounds spectacular! I love the image of you pulling your daughter on the wagon.

  25. @ Talli, the wagon part is always so cute. But we have to make sure people don't trip on it since it's low and hard to notice!

    You should come back to Boston for a visit.

  26. What a lovely post. I so enjoyed about hearing about this tradition. You are lucky indeed to live in such an area!

  27. You are lucky to live so close! I always watch it on TV and I look for people in the audience that I might recognize. Haven't seen anyone yet! But I'll look for you next year!

  28. @ Bossy Betty, I am lucky to live in this area. Usually.
    This morning, someone threw up in front of my house. And they took their time about it. Not the best background when drinking a cup of coffee.

    @ Aubrie, I doubt they film the Cambridge side so you'll probably never see me on TV for the 4th.

    You should come see it in person. It's much better live.

  29. Sounds like a perfect evening. I've haven't been to a live fireworks display for several years and I miss the "oooh's" and "ahhh's" from the crowd in one voice. Thanks for the video clip. It made me smile.

  30. That last comment about "live" fireworks was from Helen Dunalp Newton. I'm not sure why it showed up as "Anonymous"???

  31. @ Helen, I'm glad you enjoyed the video clip. I like the spontaneous clapping after an exciting bit too.

  32. Wonderful imagery with your writing and then the slideshow was like icing on the cake. We have put our red wagon to work a time or two as well.

  33. It sounds like that day you remember all the good things rather than the bad. I have to say I love those moments where you walk out your door and you smile out of nothing but happiness for the beautiful city you live in. Visiting Kemah (a place close to Houston, Texas) reminded me of how beautiful the city is and how lucky I am to have the privliege of living here.

  34. @ Slamdunk, I'm glad you liked the words, photos, and video.

    Wagons are great with small kids.

    @ Jen, it's nice when you live in a place you love. While I'd like to live in a quieter area with more room, I still love my city.