I really enjoy the 4th of July, or rather I enjoy the memories of it. I’ve gone back to college so the time I now have as free time I typically spend doing errands I can’t get done while studying. It’s interesting how our nation advertises each holiday. Whenever the 4th of July approaches, I’ll see something on the tube for 4th of July events locally and nationally …but mostly ads for sheets. Interesting that an ad for a sheet sale transport me back to times when I didn’t concern myself with errands or itineraries or even homework.
Dad would come in the front door and say “kids, grab your swim suits, we’re going”. Off we’d all dash to grab our essential gear for a trip to the lake. I still crack up thinking about mother asking if we thought a towel and a swim suit was sufficient gear for two weeks. Back into the house we’d go grumbling as we packed a bag including our toothbrushes. My father would often decide with little notice that a trip was in order …which naturally left mother to scramble and gather everything necessary for our usual 4th of July on the lake. Pots, pans, dish soap, pillows, dry goods, tupperware… and a list for the grocery stop. Back and forth she went in and out of the house and in and out of the bus. We tried not to get in her way, to remember our favorite things… the days before sunblock required Desitin on our pasty white eyes and noses because we were always in the sun too long. It’s funny that people remember that school bus. That bus took us everywhere and it held us all and a friend or two to boot My dad had rebuilt the inside of a school bus with all the comforts of home so that it would sleep 7. It had a gas stove, running water in the sink, a functioning toilet and air conditioning. Everything was dual purpose, the table made into a bed as did the couch and other spots. We had our own generator, which I’m sure the neighbors hated. We would tow a boat or put one on top of the bus and tow a vehicle. It amazes me how much stuff fit into that bus. Over the years, Dad made many improvements and off we went on our trips and it was fantastic. We would camp out for a couple of weeks arriving a few days before the crowds came and staying until everyone else was gone. It was fantastic watching the camp sites fill up and then slowly empty. We literally had the place to ourselves for most of the trip. Still, everyone would stare at this bus pulling up with so many people walking out of it… and more arriving… with kids and dogs and cousins. Yipppeeee.
I don’t know what the adults were doing, but the kids ran the camp site like a carefree oasis with plenty of fishing and swimming never noticing the adults nearby. A few feet of water offers the very freedom every child seeks even if the parents can see us, we cannot see them. I loved when other families camped with us. Sometimes they would stay a few days or stop for a brief visit. We dug up clams and used them for fishing bait and caught so many perch which we often sold for fish bait. Once, when a few lake moccasin’s got stuck in our fish basket after eating a few & poisoning the rest, we promptly killed and chopped them up for more fish bait. I even strolled around the campground with a dead snake on my neck trying to see if anyone would stop and ask me questions or get scared. Only a little girl atop the play ground screamed her head off and I had to convince her the snake was dead. Ok, so I left with my dead snake having gotten my thrill of the day. We chopped it up and went swimming. Meals and friends and sun all seem warmed by the sun glinting on the water as it bounces around the shore and swimmers and turtles and birds. And a dog, did I forget our dog Max? He once jerked the entire bus while we were sleeping a full two inches trying to bite 2 men trying to steal our camp equipment.
When the park began to have a 4th of July fireworks in later years it was fantastic. People had always shot their fireworks off the lake shore, and you could sit at night for hours watching them one by one. Still a fantastic show with fireworks shot off the tips of canyon’s for over an hour at pitch dark was great. The stars in the sky were only mirrored by hundreds of boats floating on the water. It looked like stars in the sky and candles on the water as we all waited for the fireworks to start. Then it began, everyone turned their radios down or up and you could see and smell the fireworks for miles. The only time my pictures came out great from fireworks. It remains one of the best firework displays I’ve ever seen … I’m sure the memory is aided by the water, bus, family and the every changing crowds coming and going.
The bus is still around and we still camp at the lake, but family gatherings are changed. Everyone has their own life and children and grandchildren and schedules so we all come in bits and pieces, which is better for Dad who now lives at the lake. 4th of July for me always felt and tasted like freedom to the hungry tastebuds of a child and the lingering memory tastes like life to the recollections of an adult.