Reborn on the Fourth of July
June 30, 2009 § 2 Comments
“Reborn on the Fourth of July” originally aired on WAMC on July 4th, 2007. Click on the WAMC logo to listen to the audio version of this article.
The fourth of July is coming— and it’s a good thing. This has been a tough year for our family, what with my father-in-law’s passing from cancer in December, the requisite bout of seemingly endless winter illness that comes of having two small, school-age children, and a local economic climate that is causing everyone we know to rethink whether staying in the sticks is really worth it… or even possible.
I’m reminded of the local joke about “Moonlighting in Vermont.” Despite the fact that a Vermont existence sounds idyllic to folks who live elsewhere, the reality is often something else again. Never mind the hard winters… almost everyone we know faces a never-ending struggle to make living here make financial sense. As my husband likes to say, it’s hard to enjoy the famous Vermont “Quality of Life” if you’re working 24 hours per day.
But then, just when we seem ready to despair, and pack up our assorted belongings, kids and animals for more lucrative and suburban climes, summer always seems to arrive just in time.
I smell it before I can really see it— that humid, leafy sweet smell of lilacs and smoky burn piles and new, clean air on the breeze. These are the smells of summer that cause me to fall in love- despite myself- all over again.
And when school finally ends with a whimper, the summer really begins to pick up steam. Every weekend brings the familiar favorites one after another: look for the signs! We don’t want to miss the teenage acrobats of Circus Smirkus! Or the baked beans and strawberry shortcake at Wells Variety Day! Or the strawberry picking at Leibig’s farm!
Every Sunday brings a new opportunity to eat goat cheese and still-warm, hearth-baked bread on a blanket at the local farmers’ market, or dip our toes at the edge of cold, cold Lake St. Catherine and, with gritty sand between our toes ask the eternal question: to swim? Or not to swim?
But the best of all— the quintessential summer event— is always the Fourth of July. Virtually every year, no matter who is in town or what else is going on, we stop everything to load up the car with fleece blankets and sweatshirts and fold-up nylon chairs and hampers of food in plastic containers. We are going to hear the Vermont Symphony Orchestra at Hildene Meadow.
And as we sit on the grass in the open field, under a periwinkle sky, the smells of citronella and sunscreen and Skin-So-Soft surround us. Families and couples are packed, blanket to blanket, tiptoeing around one another to socialize and eat cold chicken and drink white wine in their flip flops.
My parents came to Vermont on their honeymoon, and never stopped coming back all those years I was growing up. They brought us to many a VSO Fourth, and now I bring my own two daughters to this same meadow, to hear this same music, smelling the smells, feeling the chill of night summer air descend, always in anticipation of the great moment when the music will turn, at last, to the 1812 Overture, and the entire field, filled with hundreds of people will all turn around and look up to see the sparse, wonderful display of fireworks set to the music of the orchestra. Boom. Boom. Ba-boom.
And every year, as we sit in the field hearing the music, pleasantly full of deviled eggs and corn, anticipating that dramatic conclusion of sound and light in the darkness, the kids are circling the blanket barefoot, and I lean back and sigh.
And that’s when I remember why I live in Vermont.