America strikes back! Parents 2.0’s Fourth of July party returns as pandemic fears fade

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.

They’re right.

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.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. 
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It may be July 4, but it’s not a real Fourth of July

Photo by Alex Jones via Unsplash

The calendar claims today is Independence Day.
I refuse to believe it.
This may be July 4, but it’s not a real Fourth of July.

If this were a real Fourth of July, my late Grandpa Rogers’ veteran flag would hang in the garage on the opposite wall from his old neighbor, Mr. Arpy. Both men served in World War II.

If this were a real Fourth of July, scores of flags on wooden stakes placed carefully among the rainbow of flowers in the yard of Parents 2.0’s east Des Moines estate would flutter in the whatever lame breeze the hot, humid day could muster.

If this were a real Fourth of July, Mom 2.0 would slice potatoes into the biggest bowl in the house and stir it in with yellow mustard, mayo, dill pickles, red onions and other delights to make the most wonderful potato salad anyone has ever tasted.

If this were a real Fourth of July, Dad 2.0 would set up all the lawn chairs and loungers on the driveway in front of the garage and fiddle with the CD player to get patriotic music playing through a pair of old school intercom speakers harvested from the ruins of a long-gone elementary school.

If this were a real Fourth of July, my Aunt Juli would walk up the driveway with a crockpot filled with a nacho bean dip with more cheese than is legally allowed.

If this were a real Fourth of July, my Grandma Newcomb, age 92, would dotter up the driveway with a jug of iced tea — made mostly for her and me to drink in the heat.

If this were a real Fourth of July, my best friend, Paul, would have flown up from Memphis. We would swill sangria made from a concoction of cheap wine, booze and fruits while we watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

If this were a real Fourth of July, deck chairs would surround the pool at my apartment complex. People young and old would cannonball into the deep end and drink beer in the hot sun and the water would be the warmest it had been all summer.

If this were a real Fourth of July, the Iowa Cubs would play a ballgame at Principal Park and fireworks would explode in the night sky after the game.

If this was a real Fourth of July, I might shower and turn on the police scanner to cover the night cop beat, which on most holidays would consist of a lot of fireworks noise complaints.

But this is not a real Fourth of July.

The coronavirus pandemic has us by the throat.

My parents cancelled their annual Fourth of July picnic for the first time in the 44 years they owned their home.

A lot of older people — including my parents — attend the event. No one wants COVID-19 to cut through their whole family like a forest fire.

They held the hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, but it was indoors, with fewer competitors and spectators wearing masks and face shields. It wasn’t the same. This is the era of everything being a little off.

My friend Paul is adrift in the economic woes of a business badly battered by the pandemic. His job has survived. Many others haven’t.

Instead of taking a trip to Des Moines to visit his old friend, he worked Saturday, as he does many weekends, trying to catch up on a backlog of projects caused by a continually diminishing workforce at his office.

I’m not getting ready for work because I lost my job in May, a causality of a corporate synergy and coronavirus economic woes.

Even if I were working the cop beat tonight, the scanner almost certainly would crackle with tales of a protest against racial injustice. Please God, let it be peaceful and let everyone go home alive.

There will be no Iowa Cubs game at Principal Park because the minor league season was cancelled, a casualty of coronavirus.

We will do better on minor league baseball in Des Moines, where there’s hope of baseball next season.

Our neighbors in Burlington, Clinton and the Quad Cities, whose teams are scheduled for elimination by the greedy hustlers who run Major League Baseball, won’t even get a final season.

There won’t be pro baseball of any kind this July 4 because those same greedy hustlers in Major League Baseball spent months arguing about money while a country endured a pandemic and painful reckoning with racism.

The pool is open, but there are no chairs and masks and social distancing are encouraged.

My grandma will spend the day in her assisted living center, as she has almost every day since early March. My mom will call her mother, but visits are still limited.

Yes, this is July 4 by the calendar, but it is not the Fourth of July so many of us love.

Things are not right and they don’t look to be right for a good long while.

After the holiday, the nation faces the punishing prospect of the upcoming presidential election — almost certainly to be ugly and devoid of even a thin veneer of decency.

No one knows when this terrible virus will be curtailed. And despite efforts to sugarcoat the economic story, tens of millions of Americans, yes, including me, remain unemployed without good prospects or a Congress with enough motivation and decency to pass a second stimulus.

If this were a real Fourth of July, I will feel fellowship with family and friends, the warmth of sun on my skin and fireworks reflecting in my eyes.

I might have a swell of pride for my country, a hint of optimism for the future.

Tonight, some of my neighbors will likely shoot off some legal fireworks. If this were a real Fourth of July, I might go out and watch.

But this is not a real Fourth of July. It’s just another day in the Land of Things That Are Not OK.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

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