We had been talking it up - big time. The parade, the fireworks, the whole deal. What we didn't realize is that all of that sounds a lot like some nostalgic memories of Disney World. Before we knew it, Tucker's imagination had gotten ahead of all of us, and there was talk of castles and princesses and Uncle Rob. Slow down, cowboy. Sorry to disappoint.
What you'll really find are some honorable old men carrying flags, some convertibles with beauty queens of various shapes and sizes, a few strolling politicians, and a marching band, if we're lucky. (Which we weren't.) While the fireworks are fun, there is no flying Tinkerbell to accompany them.
And just to set everyone's expectations at an appropriate level, we each declared our greatest hopes of what we might find at the parade, long before it started. I hoped to see a flag. Robb hoped to see some old, refurbished cars. Tucker wished for a fire truck. And Tyler (leave it to him) wished for trees.
Trees in a parade... a little hard to come by. But, okay, kiddo. Maybe. You just never know.
Lest we minimize the fun of a 'small town' parade, we donned our flag t-shirts and hit the streets. And they were mesmerized.
As promised, we found men carrying flags.
As a bonus, there was Uncle Sam, in the extra tall variety.
There was our very own wagon, filled with everything but children.
There were fire trucks, old cars, lots of flags, and heaps of candy thrust upon us. And just when we thought Tyler had been too picky, Paul Revere's float passed us by, portraying his Midnight Ride. And lo and behold: there were trees.
Tyler said, "Oh! My trees!" Well done, Paul Revere.
But best of all, there were my children. Waving and cheering, standing and saluting.
We spent the afternoon and evening stuffing ourselves with unbelievable amounts of edible heaven. You know the spread: burgers, brats, corn on the cob, baked beans, her potato salad, his pasta salad, Mom's layered salad, all washed down with a peanut butter cup trifle. And at dinner time: Repeat. With ice cream sandwich cake for dessert.
I mean. Come on.
And finally, after an afternoon thunderstorm that had us all concerned for our evening's plans, it was time for Fireworks. Now, let me say, Tuck had been counting the days - since Tuesday. "Fireworks today? Oh, on Saturday? Is today Saturday? How about now?" He poured gallons of anticipation into those few days.
As we drove to our 'special spot,' where the fireworks are just close enough and just far enough away, he stared out the window and alerted us to every spark in the sky. He could not wait. They were to begin at 9:30 PM, and the hour could not arrive soon enough.
Except then it arrived. And at about 9:26, he changed his mind. He was terrified, not interested, and not open to discussion. He curled into my arms and buried his face in my neck. No amount of persuading, coaxing, or oohing and aahing could encourage him to lift his head.
With his bravest voice, he whispered into my neck through the entire display, in response to my exclamations over the fireworks. "Mommy, was that one your favorite? Mommy, was that one red or green? Mommy, was that a big one?" I gave him a play-by-play. And he never, ever peeked.
This is what I will remember most about the Fourth of July, 2009. This. Right here.
You see, earlier, during that same week of anticipation, my sweet little boy began to declare his independence from me. He said he wanted no more kisses from me, no more hugs, and no more nicknames. "I don't like your kisses. No more hugs, please. And don't call me Love, Babe, Sir, or Buddy. I am Tucker."
So, to have my sweet pea snuggled in my lap, snug as a bug in a rug, with no requests for freedom? Well, it was the sparkler in my cupcake.
He even asked me to sing his bedtime songs before it ended. Oh, for heaven's sake. I couldn't write a better script than that, sweet boy.
And just two laps over, Tyler snuggled into his own favorite spot: Grandma. He braved the fireworks, he proclaimed their beauty, and he lasted nearly to the end. But who could stay awake for long in such a cozy spot?
Really, it always is.