The Wonders of Summer, Family & Community

Making Memories

Real-home-town parades for the 4th of July. (Photo credit: Dana Pilson)

There’s nothing better than a good old red white and blue, wrapped yourself up in an American flag, July fourth holiday. And nothing says July fourth better than a parade and fireworks. This year proved to be one of the best. Our little village puts on a real-home-town parade, replete with sirening fire engines, antique cars sporting American flags, proud selectmen, a tiny marching band, baseball players, prancing miniature ponies, and bringing up the rear, on pony clean-up duty, a former Massachusetts governor driving a golf cart. The whole town turns out — and every year, Daisy and I struggle with the decision: should we march in the parade, or watch? We could march with the library, our CSA, Daisy’s dance troupe, or her school. Or we could sit on the curb and cheer, collecting candy tossed from the floats. Author Elizabeth Winthrop, a part-time Berkshires resident, wrote The Biggest Parade, a children’s book based on the Williamstown parade. The mayor in the story is so concerned with making sure everyone has a role in the parade that there’s no one left to watch!

Spectators clap and cheer the parade on, including Dana and her daughter, Daisy.

This year, we decided to be spectators. Seated on the sidewalk amongst friends and family, we clapped and cheered and held our ears to block out the wailing fire engine sirens. We sprang up to gather candy and waved to the selectmen and all our friends marching with various groups. As usual, we procured a free balloon from the toy store, enjoyed a festive free barbecue, and had a slice of birthday cake proffered by the local coffee shop. These are memories in the making. Each year, we add to the store of July fourth memories, cementing in Daisy’s head what it means to create traditions: not just family traditions, but communal.

In the evening, we usually travel to Bennington, VT, to watch fireworks, even though they start around 9:30pm and we don’t manage to get back home until close to 11pm. Some families might argue that fireworks start too late, there are too many teenagers tossing firecrackers at each other, and the kids need to be in bed. But July fourth comes but once a year. What do I want Daisy to remember: an evening spent like most others? Or the excitement of heading out to the local park, finding a spot on the hill for our blanket and chairs, munching on cold grapes as toddlers race around with sparklers, watching the golden sunset as the stars, moon and planets emerge, and then, finally, after so much waiting, witnessing the magic as the sky lights up with exploding colors?

We have so few opportunities to create lasting visceral memories. Fireworks can hardly be caught on film, you cannot capture the boom that rattles your insides, the crackle and sputter, or the screaming of the twirly whirlies. Words can’t adequately describe the feel of the cool evening grass in your toes, the taste of quickly melting ice cream, the smell of the sizzling sparklers, uttering in unison “ooh, aah, peachy keen,” and then the absolute darkness when the fireworks end and we feel our way back down the hill towards the parking lot. These all must be felt, and experienced using all our senses.

July fourth may be our country’s birthday, but it is also a celebration of the wonders of summer, family, and community. Our family might be small, a tiny unit of three, but it doesn’t mean we can’t make big, rich memories to last a lifetime.



Dana “Dee” Pilson

Dee lives with her professor husband and young daughter in rural Pownal, Vermont, just over the state line from Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an art historian and has worked in museums in New York City, Boston, and Williamstown. She has been an avid writer since the tender age of eight, filling journals with personal essays and short stories, as well as mounds of poetry, both serious and whimsical. New Yorker by birth, New Hampshire-ite by schooling, and now Vermonter by choice, Dee writes about art and architecture, the environment, books, food, exercise, travel, and green living. Her new blog, “The Power of One,” focuses on issues related to parenting an only child in today’s child-centric world.

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