Mary Lynn Bruny

This is by far the weirdest Fourth of July weekend in my life, and I’m guessing most folks’ as well. No big group picnics. No neighborhood parades. No fireworks. No patriotic music. This is just sad, sad, sad.

Well, actually at my household there will be patriotic music. This is a given. First thing in the morning, I will loudly be playing the 1812 Overture. That’s right, I get my morning brew and dive right into the crash of the cymbals and the boom of the cannons, much to the chagrin of my poor husband and nearby neighbors.

This tradition was started by my fun and very patriotic late father who loved the Fourth of July and everything Americana. (Sadly, from him I also developed an appreciation of marching music and show tunes, an ongoing source of torture to my loved ones.) Growing up, I would awaken every fourth to the pulsating sound of the Overture. Our little house would be quivering from the decimal level of sound being pumped out of the huge speakers that took up a good chunk of our teeny living room. My mother would be muttering to herself: “Why do I put up with this?” and “The poor neighbors.”

We lived in a lower middle-class suburban Cleveland neighborhood where everybody was a first or second generation European immigrant. The “poor neighbors” were a patriotic bunch as well, so they tolerated my father’s annual foible. Actually it kicked off the festivities. It was a day of constant events and fun in our little neck of the woods, a huge block party of red, white and blue activities. Did people who lived other places clip playing cards to their bikes with clothes pins to make that “clickity-clickity” sound during the bike parade (my favorite activity) or was that just our neighborhood thing? I still love that sound, the sound of happiness.

On most July fourths, my husband and I host a large family and friend daylong gathering that includes some of my other favorite activities: yard games. Growing up we played yard darts. Remember those? Basically it was like throwing knives at each other. Whose bright idea was it to mix a beer-drinking holiday, children, and game where you could slice, maim or pierce each other? It’s amazing we survived with all appendages.

Instead of killer darts, we opt for my Boulder triathlon: bocce ball, corn hole and extreme croquet. Extreme croquet involves putting wickets wherever your passive-aggressive heart desires: down driveways, through alleys, across the street. Makes for a super fun and maddening game where the best player rarely wins. It’s especially entertaining to watch very competitive people play this and be reduced to spats of frustration. Mainly we play these games to joke around, laugh and trash talk each other’s abilities of lack thereof. You know, have fun.

This year we will be having the smallest Fourth of July gathering we’ve ever hosted – just our oldest son and his girlfriend – and yet I’m terribly excited. I haven’t seen both in months and I am physically longing to be with them. That is what this pandemic has taught me: I long for those I love and love to be with.

This year after blaring the 1812 Overture, maybe I’ll get out my cruiser bike (named “Happy” interestingly enough), clip on a few playing cards and take a masked ride around the block. The simple pleasures. We have to enjoy them, especially now. Happy fourth to all!

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn is a Boulder freelance writer who has written about home-related topics for many, many years. Contact her at [email protected].