by Jamie Davidson

Reflections of a Brat on the 4th of July….

My sister and I recently had a discussion about family traditions as the 4th of July loomed ahead and neither of us had any definitive plans.  (Today is the 4th and we still don’t!) As other (non-Brat) families prepared their picnics, fireworks and reunions we wondered why we didn’t have these connections, these family bonding moments in our adulthood.  This prompted me to think back on my childhood summers. 

Each summer was usually PSC time.  I went to a different school for nearly every grade. We were either moving and on our way somewhere or taking a family vacation to see national sights before moving “home” before our Dad left on a year long deployment to Korea or Vietnam.  Were it not for these moves I don’t think I would have seen so many of our nations incredible national parks. 

“Home” was where we spent our holidays.  Home is a small town in Kansas.  I remember the 4th as a idyllic day when I got to spend time with my 20 something cousins (usually the only time I got to see them); hang out at the beautiful local parks getting to re-know aunts and uncles and second something cousins. (you remember your Aunt Patty right?) and eat food that people,not restaurants, had lovingly prepared in their kitchens, many of which were annual staples and old family recipes.  I think there was always a parade and the traditional small town Main Street was decorated with the American flag in beautiful flower pots and lined with people wearing red, white and blue.  Did my grandfather drive in the parade each year in the Shriner’s red convertible wearing his fez that to this day I still don’t know what it symbolized?  That part is hazy.  

There was homemade ice cream and watermelon eaten sitting on the family home porch where our annual “porch picture” was taken.  We always went to the big tent set up on the edge of town to buy fireworks.  My father prudently never bought the large rocket types we wanted but we always got snakes, sparklers and other annoying noise makers. I can still see the outline of those black snake marks on the brick sidewalk lovingly preserved to this day in my mind.  (The bricks, not the black marks!) 

We rode the rides at the local kiddie park and took the kiddie train ride waving at the people watching the kids enjoy the ride as if we were going on some long journey.  The 6 cage Ferris wheel is still there and continues to delight children every summer as far as I know.  They have the best snow ones in the world there. 

We always watched the incredible hometown firework display together, oohing and ahhing at the appropriate times all of us looking toward the same direction.  The one time each year when our family was together, was complete. 

As an adult, it has become harder and harder to maintain those relationships that were forged in a few short weeks every summer.  But that small town is still “home,” and I’ll head there again this July as I have for almost every summer of my 57 years here on earth.  And I’ll see everyone that is left there or comes for a visit while I’m there and we’ll take another porch picture.  We’ll look at the older porch pictures that have documented how our lives and relationships have changed.  

So maybe it’s time to begin some traditions of my own?  I don’t know.  My sister and I also realized for the first time that it was our mother who held our family together with love and our father who held the bonds of tradition together.  I wouldn’t trade being a brat for anything.  May you and yours enjoy your 4th of July wherever and whoever it may find you with.  And if you don’t have your own tradition, it’s okay.


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