a picnic basket, a cooler and the fourth of july

When I was in middle school, we lived in Colorado Springs, CO, a bustling city at the foot of Pikes Peak. The city boasts some 250 days of sunshine every year, yet there was always something so amazing about the sun shining the morning of July 4th. My mother would invariably wake us up to Roger Miller’s “The 4th of July” blasting through our mid-century, two-story house just a mile south of the Air Force Academy. “Hail to the flag, it’s the fourth of July.” It put smiles on our faces and got us ready to spend the day at Memorial Park, a 193-acre park with more recreation and entertainment options than most cruise ships. There were the usual park offerings playgrounds, tennis courts, ball fields, jogging paths, picnic shelters as well as swimming, fishing, and sailing on Prospect Lake at the center of the park. There was also year-round ice skating and hockey and a skate park. Every year, the city hosted their annual 4th of July Celebration at Memorial Park. We would pack a picnic and a cooler and make our way to the park to throw down our blanket in the middle of the field to wait for the 4th of July Symphony and the grandest fireworks show in the state.

One year, my mother’s brother, Alfred and his wife, Julie spent the holiday with us. We packed a beautiful picnic as well as the large cooler, holding some 30lbs of ice and the special treat my mother made for the occasion. My father loaded the picnic basket, the cooler, and the old fashion, hand-crank ice cream maker into the car and off we went. Once we found our spot, my mother set out our lunch and the men-folk began to churn the ice cream taking turns between bites of sandwiches and potato salad. The day was perfect. We spent the afternoon and evening lying in the sun in eager anticipation of the big show. And just as the sun dipped over the mountains, the orchestra played the William Tell Overture and sounded the canons to signal the transition to the fireworks. It was a magnificent show indeed, the night sky ablaze with the brilliance of a thousand lights, shot first to the stars, then falling to earth.

My Dad, who always had a great sense of direction, stuck his finger the air and said, “The car is this way.”

When it was all over, we packed up the blanket, the ice cream maker, the picnic basket, and the cooler. We each grabbed what we could carry and headed toward the car bobbing along with the sea of people all heading to their cars. My Dad, who always had a great sense of direction, stuck his finger the air and said, “The car is this way.” He, my brother, Alan, and Aunt Julie all headed in one direction. My mother, not convinced the car was where my father thought it was, headed in a different direction with me and Uncle Alfred in tow. It was a race to the car, in which we, most decidedly lost. I can only assume that my father got his party to the car in record time, because I wasn't there. We lost them in dark of the night. My mother, Uncle Alfred, and I walked and walked and walked some more winding our way to most of the parking lots surrounding Memorial Park, but not the one where our car was parked.

My father, in a near panic, found a police and told him that he lost, “Two adults and a teenager in the park.” I can only imagine the response of the police officer, because, again, I was not there. I was still walking around the park with my mother and Uncle Alfred looking for our car.

My father, in a near panic, found a police and told him that he lost, “Two adults and a teenager in the park.”

After walking for near an hour, most people had already cleared out of the park. We had a much clearer view of the parking areas.

“The car must be around here,” stated my mother stopping in one near-empty lot.

“My arms are tired. This is heavy. What’s in here?” asked Alfred who had been carrying the cooler. He set the cooler on the ground and opened the lid. We all peered in and there was nothing in the cooler, well, nothing that is except 30 lbs. of water. “Can I pour this out or do you want me to take it home with us?”

And just as the cooler was emptied of water, my father found us.

Happy 4th of July, and folks, always remember to empty your coolers of excess water after the fireworks show just in case you forget where you parked the car.

BIG news:

I have some big news! You may have noticed I haven't been blogging or posting as much lately. Maybe you haven't noticed. It's because I am getting ready to release my first book! It's coming out soon. Just hold on. It's almost ready.