July 6, 2014

J&M Summer Bucket List: 4th of July!

When I was little, it was the big thing to do to have a “bonfire.”

All you had to do was say the word bonfire, and news spread through the neighborhood quickly. I mean, “neighborhood” is a relative word I suppose. We were just the 15 or so little shacks & houses that lived on the top of Fenwick Mountain in rural West Virginia. Bound together by a row of red & blue mailboxes and one gravel road. We weren’t much. But when a bonfire was involved, we could have given even the best suburban block party a run for their money.

The women would get right to work on slicing watermelon and making their potato salad (and it better be yellow, thankyouverymuch). And the men would throw pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down on top of the biggest pile of brush the world had ever seen, its wooden branches reaching upward, upward- always heaven bound. When they lit it up, it popped and cracked and made a million sparks fly. They floated up on the hot July air and rested there awhile, as if suspended for a moment while time marched on. And then they lit up the night sky like a drumbeat of fireflies.

The light from the fire served like a beacon. And the neighbors would pour into our yard from all around, armed with their covered offerings. When the hot dogs were roasted and the marshmallows were burnt, that’s when the real show began. Fifty or so controlled explosions of color, probably bought the previous Summer on the family vacation to Myrtle Beach. And held in safe keeping until the time had come.

My favorite were the ones that rained down little parachutes. Did you ever have those? Sometimes they had little soldiers attached to them, sometimes they were just metal weights. But they floated down from a purple, smokey sky and made you feel like you were witnessing magic in its purest form. I can still remember running around in bare feet, trying to beat all the neighborhood kids to see who could find more of them. For whoever did, held the summer’s prize.

I think for me, that’s why the 4th of July always does feel like that…like witnessing magic.

It’s a reminder that wherever you came from, wherever you started, wherever you might be now….we are lucky enough to live in a country where there is no limit to where you might one day go.

And it’s a reminder that you might one day get to go a million miles from home and love every minute of it…..but come to realize that you still love home the best.

It’s a reminder to look up at the night sky in awe more often. And to be so thankful for the beauty that is always around.

It’s a blue and white striped blanket with red cherries and friends that feel like family.

It’s two arms around your waist and a strong chest to rest back on. A strong chest where you always find your rest. And the words “i love you” whispered under a kaleidoscope sky.

It’s freedom. And the cost of being free.

It’s summer. And making space to live your life. And to breathe. And to walk around in bare feet.

It’s realizing that the real prize is the memory. And actually being present enough in your own life to make one. And it has absolutely nothing, nothing to do with having more than someone else or being the one who is always running the fastest.

It’s in the pausing. It’s being suspended while time marches on. It’s floating up on a hot July breeze and staying there a while, just being a light in this world.

It’s your grandma’s yellow potato salad. And holding on so tight to the things that matter most that I promise you will one day be gone. So hold tighter while you can.

This is the 4th of July for me. I hope you had an amazing one friends.


Me & the adorable Miss Tiffany Farley!!

  1. Amy Demos

    This post transported me to a different place and time. So beautifully written, Mary. My heart feels just a little bit fuller. Love, love, love!

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