The 4th of July, in my family, has always been a big celebration. My whole family, which sometimes included 50 people or more, would gather at my grandmother’s house in Blue Island. The day started with breakfast on the driveway. My great uncles would fry bacon in a large pan on the grill and then fry eggs in the grease. Inside the great aunts would be making German potato salad, scrambled eggs and toast. It was a flurry of activity and energy with almost everything being done just as it was always done. Then everyone would head off to the parade. Later in the afternoon everyone would come back for more food which was laid out on tables in the garage. It seemed more food was always coming, but there were never enough of Aunt Maybelle’s popcorn balls. As the sky darkened, we would head over one block to the high school to watch the fireworks or just sit in the driveway and watch.
There were times when I loved this tradition and other times when I didn’t appreciate it or even hated it. When I was little, I was overwhelmed with the people, food and heat and quite often ended up with a belly ache. During my teen years I just wanted to hang out with my friends. When everyone started moving away and the generations got older, it got more difficult to keep going and many of the families started their own celebrations.
However, after spending time in lockdowns and isolated from family, there isn’t anything I would want more than to have our good old fashioned 4th of July filled with family, friends and food. I think watching this tradition fade away has opened my eyes to the fact that these traditions did not just happen magically. They took effort. I never really appreciated all the time my great aunts spent prepping, cleaning and cooking just to make sure we could all hangout and have fun. But the work they did went far beyond that day. They created something far greater than just a 4th of July celebration. They created family. I know this is true because I recently got together with two of my second cousins. They are much younger than me and we haven’t seen each other for years....like MANY years. But we instantly connected. We had shared memories and the bond of family that held us together even though our lives have gone in many different directions.
One of my other cousins from this same family, Laura Haver, has become a close friend as we have journeyed through our author stories together. She will soon be releasing her book, Play Together. When everything shut down during COVID she decided to play with her family and share her games to help other families play too. I’ve had an inside peak at her book and as an educator and mom, I give it my full endorsement. I’m also excited because this book does for families exactly what my family did with the 4th of July celebration. It encourages families to play together. It might be a tradition like family picnics and fireworks, but it’s also just taking time to be present and create memories every day.
This year I will be focusing on celebrating with family. There may not be a 4th of July like I remember, but I will be celebrating and embracing every moment. When we play together as families, every day is like the 4thof July. The memories and moments we create surpass time and distance and hold us together even when life moves us in different directions. So, think about it...what’s your families thing? How do you play together? What memories do you want to create? What will it take to do it? How can you use celebrations to bring your family together?
Need a little inspiration...Laura’s book is coming soon and is available for pre-order. https://www.amazon.com/Play-Together-Activities-Creativity-Mindfulness/dp/1578269741