Being thankful for the Fourth of July this year

Karen Wils photo The whole crew at the “old swimming hole” many years ago on the Fourth of July.

ESCANABA — The fourth of July is the crest of summer in Upper Michigan.

It is the ultimate time of sunshine, flowers, bare feet, and flowy, cotton clothes.

Yoopers used to joke about how Grandpa finally switched from his long-johns to boxer shorts on the Fourth of July.

Independence Day — with all of its fanfare, firecrackers, parades, and picnics — is the awesome summer day that we have all been waiting for.

Vacation days, flip-flops, sunburns, beach blankets, and campfires are what the Fourth is all about.

Besides celebrating our country’s birthday, the Fourth of July is supposed to be fun and carefree. “In the good old summertime,” is the theme that surrounds this holiday.

Oh, what I’d give to go back to those simpler times. One package of sparklers for each kid, a chicken barbecue, cousins by the dozens and the flag up on the front porch, is how I recall it.

Some of my favorite memories of July 4 revolve around an old inner tube and the whole family plunging into the chilly waters of Little Bay de Noc on the Northshore of Escanaba.

Playing rough-neck volley ball in the backyard with family and friends ranging in age from 8 to 80 was another Fourth of July muscle toner.

Socializing around picnic tables with out of town relatives was a part of the holiday fun. Like a mini-family reunion, toddlers and kids in cute shorts, sundresses and shades were everywhere.

An amazing buffet of summer foods — perfect pork done on the rotisserie, a melon boat, garden fresh salads and several desserts — filled many paper plates.

At dusk, our family would huddle together on the corner of our block to watch the fireworks. My mother loved firework displays. She’d “OHHH” and “Ahhh,” like a big kid. After the excitement and the heat of the day, a sleepy child would usually find my lap.

For many decades, my parents and my aunt, uncle and cousins put on wonderful Fourth of July celebrations for family and friends. We’d often have a theme, play games and of course, have a watermelon seed spitting contest.

This year is going to be different.

This year, we won’t be spitting anything, but we will be counting our blessings big time.

We will be social distancing and hand washing. Our hands will not be holding or hugging others, but praying in thanksgiving of all the good things we have.

We have a wonderful place to live here in the U.P., filled with woods and cool waters. We have quiet meadows filled with flowers and deer and musical places like waterfalls filled with trout.

We have food on the table or on the grill, with family and friends all around.

That’s the most important blessing we have — each other.

In these crazy times of COVID-19, we have to think about one another so that we all can enjoy the simple, sweet things of summertime.

Kick off your shoes and settle down into that lawn chair or hammock. Let the stress and worries of these days wander off like the wildlife and the butterflies.

Count blessings and have a happy Fourth of July.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.


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