From Sea to Shining Sea

July 5, 2010 by Ellen Stimson in 4th of July

Yesterday the village streets were filled with little girls wearing red white and blue flowery dresses and boys in their good khakis and linen shirts carrying cotton candy and light up necklaces and swords. The streets were filled with people strolling from the ice cream place to the church lawn for lobster rolls. The parade was at 5 and then there was meandering til the fireworks started at 9.

We watched the parade from a wide porch filled with rockers and happy little kids on the lawn chasing balls. Then we all had dinner at a place where you jockeyed for a table on a first come first served porch with a whole bunch of hot hungry entitled folks who were hoping for a table with food and a view of the fireworks later on. The maitre d was practically hiding out rather than referee.

I was carrying my own bag of expectations to that porch. We were all together kids, girlfriend, and parents for the first time since the troubles of last spring. A summer porch with some good seafood, maybe some champagne, (like my friend who keenly understands how to manage large groups always has on hand), and fireworks seemed like a noisy distracted enough place to manage the feelings and watch ourselves have a little fun. But first we had to get a table big enough. After losing one, splitting up the group, giving some of us a table, and almost arguing over another I saw the possibilities in several tables who were finishing up. I negotiated with some other women standing in line who grabbed one while we grabbed another. Then there was only one more couple needing to finish. I promised the people behind us that they could have the one our kids were using, the women would give us one of theirs keeping the one off by itself and, and we would then move to the ones about to be vacated. It was a complicated dance with some staff and people in line who seemed confused and almost querulous. I explained to the waiter that he was going to get four full tables if he could stand the wait while we held tables and gobbled up bread. There was the nervousness of being eyed warily by others who were hoping to nab tables and at least a little embarrassment by a couple in our group who didn’t want any of this attention. But in the end there were four friendly tables toasting one another amid the camaraderie of shared success.

Look I knew I couldn’t control whether these people I am related to were nice to one another or enjoyed themselves or not. I have been working this year on finding deeper ways of letting go. Control is an illusion. I know it. But by God I could control this table dance and at least set the stage.

And you know what? It mostly worked. We drank champagne and ate crab and the fireworks over the harbor were practically right outside our open-air windows. It seemed almost as if the whole enterprise had been created just for us. Someone, not me, toasted and everyone including me joined in.

I came here to work and be closer to one kid while toting another one and his pals along. Then the rest of them showed up and now we seem to be stringing together a new story. There are still the other stories too. This new version won’t replace those, but it can sit alongside them until eventually that other harder bit is just a piece…not the whole thing … but just one narrative in a series of the long history that is a family’s life. Now that history includes working together with a whole bunch of strangers on a steamy night next to a harbor sky filled with the sparkly lights of a 4th of July. One of the kids poked fun of one of those parent things I always say practically every July…This is America. And in America we get up in the mornings, we go to work and we solve our problems.
Well…maybe just maybe.
Happy happy 4th of July.


  • library lady

    What I love about America is that there always seems to be another chance to get it right. Or maybe that's just human nature. Another thing I love is that more than any other holiday, the Fourth almost always lives up to expectations…it's got to be the fireworks.

  • Kate

    I found that very noisy, very public places were the perfect places to start rebuilding with my own parents. Keep on, my friend. Keep on.

  • Abigail Mae Hudson

    I have always loved Independence Day. The library lady may be right. I think it is the fireworks. They are always a crowd pleaser.
    You are wise to bring them together na new place. Keep going Mrs Paproth. That is really the whole secret. Just keep moving.

  • Molls

    The food doesn't hurt either. Crab, clams, BBQ, Lobster etc
    And champaygne while not as comprehensive as whiskey can stlll soften the edges a bit…

  • katriedid

    Ah but chmapagne is celebratory. You don't get those slobs with the whiskey blues with champagne.
    Nice going Mrs P. You always show me a way through…

  • Lucia

    I'm reading this several days after the fact, but inspired nonetheless. Family, friends, kids and strangers all together at a public gathering space make for potential logistical nightmare. You pulled it off, and had gratitude. Applause!

  • starrlife

    Well, it's gone by but still more summer to come! Are you going to the Vineyard this year? Lucky you!

  • painted maypole

    showing up is the first step in solving any problem.

    moving things around to be closer to each is definitely and important step, as well.


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