Wednesday, October 08, 2014


a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done

My best childhood holiday memories surround the 4th of July in Brentwood, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where I lived from about age 7 until 14.  

Festivities began early with families gathering their lawn chairs and coolers and laying claim to "their" favorite spots along the route.  No one in my family would ever miss the parade, even my father, who traditionally missed just about every family event.  

To say that this parade was and still is epic is quite the understatement.  Even today, over 40,000 people show up to enjoy it.  That is a lot of people converging on a town with a population of under 10,000.  

Children started decorating their bikes weeks in advance, and spent the time before the parade reached their areas riding up and down the route.  And some chose to be in the parade, riding the whole thing.  Of course, there were street vendors and clowns and a gazillion marching bands and fire trucks--lots of fire trucks. Oh, the magic of it all.

the next generation of cousins at the Brentwood parade in 1990
back row:  Kelly, Ryan, Michael, Brandon
front row:  Matthew, Rachael, Justin, Greg

After the parade, my parents made their way back home to get the picnic going, but we kids headed to the park for the races.  It seems strange to me now that our parents did not join us at the park festivities, but at the time it was our normal.  

The park was within walking distance of our house, so we went there frequently to play ball, swim, or just hang out.  My parents would purchase pool tags for us each summer (metal tags with numbers on them that had to be sewn to our bathing suits to allow us entrance to the pool). Because of its proximity, the park just seemed to be an extension of our neighborhood. 

Anyway, there were all kinds of races held at the pool and in the stadium on the 4th of July, but the one that I remember so vividly was the slow bicycle race.  The winner, of course, was the last one over the finish line.  So many kids fell off their bikes while inching across the field. The suspense was palpable.

The races were not the only reason to make our way to the park after the parade.  Every child in the town was give tickets that could be redeemed for items at the pool snack bar like Jaw Breakers, Boston Baked Beans, snow cones, and frozen Zero bars.  We would not have missed out on that for anything!  
Back at home there were hotdogs and black potatoes (potatoes cooked right on the coals) and sparklers.  We always had sparklers.  

The night concluded with the fireworks in the stadium; and once again, everyone in the family went.  Oh, how I love fireworks--the louder, the better!  My dad parked in his special spot, away from the crowds, which allowed us to zip home as soon as the grand finale was over. 

The 4th of July was about as close to perfect as a day could get.

Who knew how that would change to the complete opposite so many years later?

All posts from the 31 Words project can be found here.


Lisa Balough said...

Prank or holiday memory? I don’t know which this qualifies as but my brother and I will never forget it. One Saint Patrick’s Day morning my brother and I came to the breakfast table as usual, poured our cereal, and began to pour our milk. I’m not sure who poured first but we were utterly shocked to find that the milk was pale green!!! We were flabbergasted while our Mom was silently snickering in the corner of the kitchen. The secret – green food coloring. Hey, there’s not much to this holiday, so a little creativity goes a long way.

Kimberly Hoyt said...

Since we're close to the end of October, I'll share a Halloween memory. My family lived in Detroit from the time I was 4 until I was 9, back when trick-or-treating was still a safe activity. We lived in a neighborhood with lots and lots of kids, and it was the rare house that didn't participate in the festivities. It was almost like day because practically every porch light was ablaze, and cars had a hard time making their way down the road because people were spilling over the sidewalks, into the streets.

I remember at one house we encountered a large contraption on the porch, with blinking lights, knobs and other moving parts, and it was making loud, strange noises. To my young eyes it was enormous! A boy dressed as a soldier stood at attention next to it, and solemnly informed us that we had to insert a piece of candy into the slot. What? Give them my candy?! I didn't like that idea at all!

But my sister had no such qualms and stepped right up and plopped a piece of candy into the slot. Lots of clanging and bells and whistles sounded and then out popped TWO candies from another slot! Alrightythen! I dropped a piece of my candy in the slot, and within 15 very loud seconds received two pieces back. This was my kind of machine!

Sadly, we were only allowed to do it twice and then had to move on. You can bet that house was very popular! You didn't just get candy, you had an experience!

I heard later that family had a bunch of boys and they conceived the idea of building a candy machine. I have no idea what materials they used in its construction, but it was very effective. The brothers took turns sitting inside, making noise and dispensing candy. I thought then, and I still think, that was a very clever idea!

Lisa Biery said...

4th of July. My birthday is the 3rd and my dads is the fourth. I can remember celebrating our birthdays together. Every year we blew out the candles together on whatever extremely girly cake I had chosen. When we would light fireworks he would tell me that the first one lit was in honor of me. Somehow it always seemed to be the prettiest and the brightest.

Sabrina said...

The Christmas after I learned Santa wasn't real was traumatic. It wasn't because I was disappointed that there wasn't an old man that broke into our house in the middle of the night with presents or that there weren't little elves working on toys in some far away snow land. I was devastated because I knew our family was poor. I knew my parents did not have any money to spend on presents. If Christmas relied on them buying the toys, we wouldn't be getting any. My dad was in seminary, worked a very part time job at Fred's dollar store, and my mom taught us at home. The income was necessities only. Christmas morning, we woke up to Barbie cars, bean bags, and an amazing abundance of toys. I was so confused. There was no way dad was able to buy these toys. I would later find out that the manager of the Fred's store knew my dad was in seminary and was only making $200 a week. The night before Christmas, he told my dad to pick out whatever toys in the store we would like and he would cover the bill.

This world is full of disappointments but God decided to show Himself to my little heart right away as the One who provides even in the face of heartbreak.

Emily Noe said...

Lots of great holiday memories! I can remember as a young girl going over to my Grandpa Hoover's house and getting together with all my cousins. I have too many cousins to count because my mom is the youngest of 10 siblings! My grandpa's white country-style house was warm and inviting with a large front porch that wrapped around the side. He always had a cedar Christmas tree in his front room which we all gathered around to open gifts. I've always loved being a part of a big extended family and the great memories it brought.

Heather Sparks said...

I can just barely remember the Christmas in the UP of MI that my Mom's parents came. My Grandpa Bentley was very handy with his hands and built us a wooden toybox. That toybox moved with us everywhere and is still being used by my nephews today. It has a bookshelf mounted over the top and always held as many books as could be stuffed on those shelves. Grandpa also made a little wooden step stool for each of my sisters and I with our names carved into the top.
That is my earliest recollection of Christmas, but there are so many memories of holidays and family in the years that followed.

Audra Picarello said...

Holiday makes me think of loud Rook tournaments, and watching Anne of Green Gables, eating popcorn, hours spent opening Christmas presents, and all of us crammed to the gills at my grandparent's house.

Sonya Tichenor said...

This may be cheating, but I am going to have to put fun and holiday in the same memory. So if you read my post on the other word, it's the same.

FUN and HOLIDAY went together with my dad's side of the family. Whether it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, I always remember it being fun. There was so much laughter (maybe due to the alcohol?) but no one ever got out of hand. There were always so many gifts under the tree. One year the tree fell over. One year I cut my arm and spent Christmas Eve in the hospital. Everyone had to wait to opern gifts till I got home. That doesn't sound fun, does it? But even then, my dad and uncle made me laugh. A tradition was for one of the adults to load all the kids up in the car and we would go looking for Santa Claus. This was helped by the radio station that tracked Santa's moves through the night sky. Every red plane light was Rudolph's nose. I don't know how we all looked out the car windows at the same time, but we did. Once we came back to Grandma and Grandpa's, and all the other adults were on the porch waving us on! Go that way! We just saw him! We drove around some more and when we came back, Santa had come and left all our gifts on the porch! Even as I write this, it makes me smile. I loved them all so much.

Lyle said...

I was eight years old and only days before Christmas became violently ill with the stomach flu. I was so sick I missed everything leading up to Christmas. I was so sick I spent Christmas in the hospital, dehydrated. Throughout the whole experience, all I could think about was how I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. I did not believe in Santa Claus, and I knew Cabbage Patch dolls were selling out of all the stores in our town. My parents had been busy taking care of me, so how could my mom possibly manage to get the beautiful doll with yellow yarn hair that I so desperately wanted? Christmas morning arrived and I was too weak to care that I was missing Christmas brunch at my Grandma's, too weak to do anything but sip the 7Up the nurses kept bringing to me. But Christmas morning brought the most amazing surprise--you guessed it! A Cabbage Patch doll! My cousin Gerald worked at a department store and managed to get one for my parents to give to me. That was probably the most surprised I have ever been on Christmas morning!

Becca Hill said...

It's sometimes hard to write because just one word can bring memories that are painful. Holiday shouldn't do that but for me if does. My family didn't really celebrate anything and it was always disappointing. Oh, my mom cooked and I think they tried to do the days as best they could, but it never seemed very happy or exciting. Christmas was the worst.
My parents did the best they could with buying gifts & holiday food but it was never about the true meaning of Christmas and so Santa was applauded and the toys were unwrapped as fast as possible and there was always something more my heart wanted. My birthday was just 3 days after and so there was always MORE disappointment. Not much was done. Most years my gifts were combined ( which I never understood!) and so I didn't unwrap gifts and rarely had a cake or party.

Then I married the most wonderful man! He loved to celebrate! And for the past 25 years we've celebrated everything! Especially Christmas ... And my birthday!

When we were first married and he have me a stunning ruby & diamond bracelet for my birthday I was in shock! We didn't have that kind of money. I was actually worried he might have sold something special to him to sacrifice for me.... I never figured out how he afforded it but now I've realized he will save all year to give me a surprise on my birthday. He is so very kind to my needy heart!

Our kids don't know what it's like to NOT celebrate. We give them parties every year and the whole family gathers to celebrate! Our Christmas centers on Christ but they also get a few gifts. We live a life of celebrating... Lost teeth, growing an inch, successes galore, grades, team wins, sacrifices, trips, returning from camps... Anything & I love it. Holidays are now a happier part of life.

Becca Hill said...

I also want to add that my husband bought me an antique book our first Christmas Eve. ( the Gift of the Magi) and he reads it aloud to me every Christmas Eve & I ALWAYS cry!

Sakchisinha said...

Enjoying holiday with family and friends is the greatest happiest things in our life. this article remembered by old days.

allinmark said...

Time spent with family members always remains pleasant in the memories.