America is back. I declare that with full confidence based on a single fact: Parents 2.0 are hosting their annual July 4 celebration at their stately east Des Moines manor.
They canceled last year during the pandemic.
That made sense.
Many who attend are elderly. They were the highest risk.
I didn’t know if the show would ever go on again.
Parents 2.0 are both 72. Putting on the event is a strain. They pace themselves well, but it takes a toll in the heat of the summer.
But it’s back.
My folks fill the garage with picnic tables.
They spread out a quarter city block of food on the workbench.
Annual vittles include at least two meats — turkey, pork, brisket, or ham.
There’s always baked beans with bacon, scalloped corn and potatoes, potato salad, deviled eggs, relishes, salad, and a few snacks people bring.
The big red cooler is filled with pop. The smaller coolers on top with spigots hold water and iced tea.
There probably won’t be iced tea this year. Grandma Newcomb made the iced tea, which mostly she and I drank. She died last fall at age 92. So it goes.
Dad 2.0 puts on patriotic music on the CD player hooked up to some old speakers salvaged from a demolished elementary school.
Friends and family come.
The adults eat and talk. Everybody compliments the yard.
My parents take yardwork seriously. I once saw Dad 2.0 edge the front lawn with a butter knife. I’m not making that up.
My parents plant their flowers at a specific time each spring so that they’ll be in full bloom by July 4. It works every year. I’m not making that up, either.
The littles kids sit in a big wading pool set up in the driveway and squirt each other with water guns.
Sometimes there’s a water side in the grass or badminton.
There used to be basketball, but the kids who liked that game grew older and rounder and the ball stayed idle. Parents 2.0 took down the basket, backboard and pole a few years ago. No one noticed.
The party went on.
Don’t expect any fireworks or booze. People act foolish when they drink, which my parents have no patience for. Just as good a time can be had without libations, they’ll say.
My parents don’t care for fireworks. They’re noisy and they make a mess in people’s yards.
Noisiness is being a rude neighbor, which is anathema to my parents’ ethos. And I already told you how seriously these people take a well-maintained yard.
The whole house is decked out with every kind of American flag and streamer decoration you could imagine.
My friend Paul usually visits over the July 4 weekend. We get our picture taken on either side of the Iowa flag.
We have considered not having the photo taken, as it records the ravages of time on our bodies and hairlines better than we both would prefer.
Thus, my parents’ Fourth of July party marks the time.
I came to live with Parents 2.0 in 1991. I was slim with a thick head of brown hair. Now I’m obese and bald.
Nobody cares. Fill your plate. Grab a seat. Tell us what’s going on with yourself.
I’ve missed the party twice in 30 years as a family. I spent the summer of 1999 in Washington, D.C., working for USA Today. I watched the fireworks from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
And, of course, there was no party last year because of the pandemic.
The party is on its third and fourth generation of nieces and nephews.
Many of the people who attended the first one, in 1977, are dead now. So it goes.
Others have grown up and moved away.
The day ends with homemade ice cream in two flavors: pineapple sherbet and vanilla. I’m a sherbet man. It tastes like heaven.
My friend Rebecca, long married and moved away to Wisconsin, says she thinks of that ice cream every Fourth of July no matter where she is.
I love sharing the party with my friends, especially the strays like me who never married or have lost a spouse.
I would invite all of you, dear readers, but Mom 2.0 says she has enough trouble coaxing RSVPs out of the people she invites.
Well, mother-o-mine, mark me down for at least one. Hopefully, I can coax Paul out of Memphis and the accounting paperwork he’s perpetually buried under.
I mean we gotta go, right? Who knows how many more of these parties there will be? Maybe one day my folks will decide enough is enough.
As long as the party goes on, I’m going.
My friend Yvonne, who was my guest a couple of times, said it was the most American thing she ever did.
My folks’ July 4 party is the picture I have in my head of what America is. Friends and family sharing food and drink and taking time to be together.
There are no political lines or religious lines. There are just lines for the buffet.