Fourth of July was a special celebration in our family. Flashbacks to my younger years bring images of picnicking beside the San Joaquin River in the days when it was a flowing stream. Our large family climbed out of several cars parked on the roadside above the river. The men and older boys unloaded fishing equipment and an ice chest filled with bottled soft drinks. The women carried food. All descended to the river in a single file on the narrow trail. The women kept watchful eyes on their children.
I never understood why the guys insisted on fishing—they seldom caught any fish—when the ladies had prepared more than enough fried chicken, bologna sandwiches, potato salad, and dessert. My oldest brother’s wife always made a plain-style birthday cake for James, their youngest son.
One year when July 4 was on Sunday, there were no picnic plans. When told there would be no holiday celebration, young James protested. “But we always have a fun day on my birthday.”
The puzzle confounded him more when his mother told him that July 4, Independence Day, was a holiday celebrating America’s freedom. “We will have your cake after lunch here at home,” she said. “First, we will celebrate our freedom of religion by attending church.”
James lifted his face upward with a puzzled expression. “A holiday? You mean like Thanksgiving when we get to stay home from school?”
“Yes, like that,” she said.
“You mean everybody didn’t get the day off work because it was my birthday?”