A Midwest 4th of July
Class of 2013
(July, 2012) Itís a few days before the 4th of July, and we are hitting the road for a seven-hour drive up North. It is a tradition in our family to travel to Grandma and Grandpa Strubís lake house to celebrate our nationís Independence Day. The tradition has been going on since we were babies, and now it has become a large family vacation.
When my fatherís side of the family gathers, it turns into a large party as there are grandparents, their four children and all thirteen grandchildren. Needless to say, it becomes a challenge to find a place for everyone to sleep, but with a camper, a large garage and a couple of tents, it works. Each family drives to this lakeside oasis. For some of
my aunts and uncles it takes only a few hours, while for others it takes days, yet everyone is willing to make the drive for the mountains of fun that await.
When you travel to the lake for the 4th of July, you donít bring many clothes besides a bathing suit, towel, cover-up, sweatpants, sweatshirt and a couple of T-shirts. Why is so little packing necessary? Well, there is no need when you are in your bathing suit basically the whole time.
Your time at the lake for the 4th is spent swimming, fishing, playing and burying cousins in the sand, tanning, reading, playing cards, and watching the parade and fireworks. As you can see, besides the parade and fireworks, all those activities can be done in a bathing suit. The simple pleasure of being able to be in a bathing suit the whole time is
part of the bliss of really enjoying the 4th of July. This is because you are taking a vacation from the rest of the world. You are taken to another place where it really doesnít matter if you stay in your bathing suit and work on your tan all day. That is what I call a relaxing vacation.
What we do not pack in clothes we make up in food. My highly organized mother has taken it upon herself to plan out the weekís meals for nineteen people, not to mention the dogs and teenage boys that eat enough for at least two people. It takes a lot of planning and organizing for the different meals, and her favorite part is designating which family
brings what to the celebration. My mom organizes the meals, but she is not left alone when it comes to cooking. She has help from my Uncle Bruce, Grandma and anyone else willing to pitch in. The meals consist of old favorites such as tacos and BBQ chicken and new dishes that typically become our favorites, but one night is always reserved for fish. The fish dinner has been in
place for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, I loved going out with Daddy and my brother to catch the fish, but my favorite part was playing with their slimy skins while they were waiting to be scaled and cut up. Now the scaling and cutting is not so inviting, but my younger cousins have followed in my footsteps and join my dad and grandpa in the trip to the
While the meals are always delicious, the unlimited snacks are always the best part. Itís a huge stock of all the tastiest snacks that are the worst ones for you, a taunting collection all on a long shelf. There are huge Samís Club packs of Oreos, other cookies, chips, crackers, cheese, nuts, salsa, and so on. If happiness could be on a shelf, that
would be it. My family tends to dig into the snack shelf as they pass through the cabin. The children are the worst culprits though and have a habit of spoiling their dinner. The adults tend to complain about the children stealing the snacks, although in reality they do not have a whole lot to say because they themselves break out all of the taunting snacks for game night
after the children go to bed. We sit there and give into all of the munchies while we remember old times and laugh about the new memories. The women in the family complain during our late-night games that we need to go on a diet when the week is over, but we still sit there and give into the munchies.
It really starts looking like the 4th of July when everyone makes the trip into the little town of Danbury, Wisconsin, for its annual 4th of July parade. The people out East would call it a redneck parade with the hunter floats, but that, my friends, is just a part of the Wisconsin lifestyle. Hunting is a big part of the average Midwest person life.
Thus those floats are the crowdís favorites, as the occupants tend to interact with the people and act like clowns. Of course there are police cars and fire trucks that spray water, which everyone in the crowd appreciates. The spraying also ensures that you catch some rays while the children are lathered up with sunscreen. The candy and the freeze-pops that are thrown at the
crowd are at the top of the most-popular list. No matter what your age, you always enjoy catching candy and freeze-pops at the parade. You can even see embarrassed adults telling their kids to pick up lots of freeze-pops so they can have one too. It never fails that every year our grandparents ask one of the youngest cousins to bring them a freeze-pop, which they fully enjoy
while the grandchild is none the wiser. You never quite lose the desire to be a kid again and run out into the street to get candy, and then proceed to stuff your face with it.
The daytime fun of the parade ends with a fantastic display of fireworks to celebrate our nationís Independence Day. This has been a tradition for years that was started by my father. He has a probably unhealthy fascination with fireworks. Every year he always goes a little bit firework-happy and spends too much, but we have a wonderful display. As I
have gotten older, I have discovered that my parents have a fireworks budget to help control my father from spending too much money on fireworks. That is a very strange budget to have, but I guess it is my fatherís equivalent of shoes. Either way, it is still an interesting concept to get your head around. The budget that is placed on him really doesnít matter because he
always manages to break it and spend too much. Then he smiles meekly at my mother while she gives him her chastising look.
The money spent is forgotten as the men set up the firework display, and the women prepare the children to go down by the lake with sweatshirts and bug spray, otherwise they will get eaten alive. As the sun creeps behind the horizon, the whole gang is greeted with a wonderful display of fireworks. Thanks to my father, there is a large variety of
everyoneís favorites. We are treated with sparklers, fountains, tank cars, roman candles, beautiful colors, weeping willows, and of course the huge loud ones. Thanks to the budget my parents create, there is always a wonderful display. Traditionally, the dogs huddle inside the cabin and one child always cries because of the noise. Those are minor details, and they certainly
do not stop the rest of the family from having an amazing time while sitting out on the dock and watching the fireworks to honor the 4th of July.
Read past editions of Samantha Strub's Four Years at the Mount