The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Fourth of July

By Judy Barnes © 1992

Issue: July-August-September, 1992

It was an exciting time when the family got together for a picnic at my grandmother's. All of my cousins, aunts and uncles were there. I can't pick out a particular Fourth of July because they mesh together in my memory under the headings of homemade ice cream, bottles of soda pop packed in tubs of ice, fried chicken and potato salad.

The Fourth of July was a wonderfully hot day in Virginia where I lived as a child. My brothers, cousins and I were allowed to go barefoot, and the cool grass exhilarated me as it tickled my toes. We played in the water, and none of the adults cared how much we splashed or how wet we were. The hot sun soon dried us. As I played games with the others or simply lay on a blanket reading comic books, the delicious smells of dinner cooking filled my nostrils; and I could hardly wait to sink my teeth into a piece of crunchy, juicy fried chicken. The grape soda pop was my favorite; and I shook the bottle to make a lot of fizz, often spraying my older brother before putting the bottle to my lips, where the tiny purple bubbles stained my face.

In the late afternoon it seemed to take forever to churn the ice cream. The adults took turns cranking the squeaky handle until it was too hard for the strongest man to turn. The children licked the paddles while the creamy mixture was put aside to ripen. Nothing compared to the taste of that soft, rich, sweet coldness.

When dark came, we watched with wonder as the fireworks exploded in the night sky. The showers of brightly colored lights was the most beautiful sight I'd seen. The loud cracks and bangs were enough to make me cover my ears, but I loved it. Fireworks ended, and we all headed home. I'm sure I went to sleep with a smile on my face. I had no gasp of the true meaning of the celebration but had simply enjoyed the freedom and independence of that perfect day.