Since the dawn of time, my parents have celebrated the 4th of July with chocolate pudding and fresh raspberries topped with whipped cream. I don’t know how Jello pudding became a family tradition, only that for the past umpteen years, that’s how we roll at the Ing Ranch.
My parents have had a spectacularly positioned home for viewing the fireworks display in Ashland, high up on the hill overlooking the university football stadium where pyrotechnicians are hard at work creating a light show for the city. But after 35 years, the trees on the downhill side of their house have crept up higher and higher, so that you really have to stand in just the right place on my parent’s deck to get a partial view of the festivities.
Back in the 90’s, my parents even went to ridiculously great extremes to secure the opportunity to thin out some trees that were endangering their view of the valley below. Extremes that I won’t even go into here, not because they were illegal or anything, just forehead slapping extreme in that my-parents-are-crazier-than-your-parents kind of way. These days, they would probably have to resort to something illegal to get their view back, like introducing some kind of invasive tree-eating beetle or Sudden Oak Death, because the whole hillside has simply grown up.
What I’m getting at is that there’s not a whole lot to see from my parent’s deck any longer, but every year when I make a pilgrimage back to the cultural Mecca of Ashland for the holiday, the fridge is completely packed with an entire flat of raspberries, a huge mixing bowl of chocolate pudding, and about 6 cans of whipped cream. Once upon a time, there were so many people on the deck for the 4th of July that I worried about the integrity of the cantilevering. Nowadays, as my parents have been blessed with longevity and have reached Octogenarian status, fewer and fewer friends show up each year.
Another family tradition that goes back to the days before there was a Starbucks in downtown Ashland is putting on a big floppy hat, and drive down the hill, parking as close as one can get to the aforementioned Starbucks (which is about a half mile), and congregating either on the deck of the coffee shop or on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop in blistering heat for 3 hours to watch the 4th of July Parade. The only years I have not participated in this compulsory event since 1981 are the years I spent in Alaska, and the year I was (ever so thankfully) living on a Greek island. I was ever so thankful that year not because the Greeks don’t celebrate the 4th of July, but because that was the year that my former boyfriend through most of my college years decided to get married on the 4th of July. On a float in the parade. Can you imagine anything more uncomfortable than getting hitched while standing on the flatbed of a semi going about 2 miles an hour in 100 degree heat in front of 20-thousand strangers? I can. Imagine if you were that guy’s ex-fiancee, standing on the sidewalk in a floppy hat watching it happen. So I’m glad I didn’t have to see that. But I heard about it, oh I heard about it. All the way from Greece.
My husband – the newest member of this family – is kind of known in my family for pulling the pin & tossing a conversational hand grenade into the room. He has made the bold suggestion that we throw tradition to the wind this year, and change things up a little bit. He has offered up the idea of the whole family trekking up to Diamond Lake, where it’s ten degrees cooler, where we can rent a paddle boat, swim and fish in the lake, then sit on the deck at the Diamond Lake Resort, eat prime rib and watch their fireworks display while listening to a live band, and sleep in our 28 foot travel trailer in relative comfort.
He had me at ‘ten degrees cooler.’
My dad, who would rather have his toenails pried off by an Air Force Master Sergeant with a pair of pliers than attend another 4th of July parade in 110 degree heat, is all for it. My sister and her husband really like to create new family traditions, so the idea of doing something – anything – different than the way we’ve been doing it for 35 years is tantalizing. And their 7 year old daughter Lena loves a parade as much as any 7 year old, but I kind of think she might like swimming in the lake, bicycling on dirt roads and playing in the grass with my puppy and being right underneath the fireworks a little bit more than frying her bottom on the concrete curb of East Main Street and reapplying sunscreen every half hour while watching some other kids ride their bikes in a parade. I bet if I tell her there’s face painting up at Diamond Lake that I can seal this deal.
The only person left that I really need to convince…the only person who really truly matters, is my mom. But I have 3 pieces of ammunition in my arsenal that I might be able to use to sway her:
#1 Pudding can travel
#2 My trailer has air conditioning
#3 And a memory foam mattress.
I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s quite possible that the fireworks this year will be going off inside my mom & dad’s house.
In the meantime, I’ve got the music to bring to this party. Feel free to stream today’s 4th of July playlist at your party as well, no matter where you are. And a big thanks to my summer intern, Jackson Whitmore, who helped me immensely in moving this playlist over from where it used to live to it’s new digs at Spotify. All you need to do is click the play arrow on the box below and enjoy!
- Katy Perry – Firework
- Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – This Land Is Your Land
- Straight No Chaser – America The Beautiful
- James Brown – Living In America
- Neil Diamond – America
- Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA
- Lenny Kravitz – American Woman
- John Mellencamp – R.O.C.K. In The USA
- Chuck Berry – Back In The USA
- Grand Funk Railroad – We’re An American Band
- Neil Young – Rockin’ In The Free World
- Don McLean – American Pie
- Elton John – Philadelphia Freedom
- The Beatles – Revolution
- Miley Cyrus – Party in the USA
- Shooter Jennings – 4th Of July
- Toby Keith – Courtesy Of The Red White & Blue
- Randy Travis – America Will Always Stand
- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – An American Dream
- Steve Miller Band – Living In The USA
- Martin Sexton – Free World
- Keb’ Mo’ – America The Beautiful
- Glenn Miller – American Patrol
- The Impressions – This Is My Country
- Johnny Cash – Ragged Old Flag
- Jimi Hendrix – Star Spangled Banner
- Lee Greenwood – God Bless the USA
- Kate Smith – God Bless America
- James Taylor – On The 4th of July
- The Presidents Own United States Marine Band – Stars & Stripes Forever