Spirit of 1976, A July 4th Memory (reposted)

I’m reposting last year’s Independence Day blog, just because it’s one of my favorites.  (Also still immersed in my “revise and resubmit,” so no time for a new one!  Happy 4th!)

bicent_disney2[1]It’s the bicentennial.  Our country is 200 years old which seems deeply significant to me because I am ten.  I feel this solidarity with the United States of America because we are both these perfect round figures.  I feel this bond with all ten year olds all over the country.  It’s as if we kids are the true Americans.  I don’t tell anyone I feel this way.  It is too momentous, too poignant to speak of.  To be ten.  To be an American. On July 4th, 1976.  It is a feeling I cannot explain.  It only is.

About a month ago—around my own tenth birthday—red, white and blue hats, flags, posters, beer mugs, buttons, t-shirts, sweatbands and sweat socks that say “1776-1976” went on sale and are subsequently everywhere.  My parents don’t buy any of it; they think the memorabilia is silly.  Are you a better American just because you wear a t-shirt that says so?  Still, when I ask for a Spirit of ’76 button and hat, they say yes.  Since I am a child, I’m allowed to be silly.

Since I am ten, and believe on some level that my being ten is as important as America turning 200, I think at first that when they say Spirit of ’76, they mean 1976.

My friend Tom—who is more a friend of the family than a real friend—is also ten.  My parents and his grandparents go way back; they have us out to their summer home on Fire Island for the July 4th weekend.  Tom and I might not otherwise be friends but we are routinely thrown together by circumstance.  Since we are kids, and there is a beach with sand and waves, since there is ice cream and a house with a cool balcony, this is okay.  Since we are not teenagers, the fact that we are different genders is not awkward.  Besides we’re not just the same age; we’re both ten year old Americans on the Bicentennial.

We arrive on the Island on Friday. Tom meets me and my parents at the ferry with his little red wagon and helps us carry our things to his grandparents’ home in Ocean Bay Park.  He and I take turns pulling the wagon as we chat.  We are eager to get into the waves, to go to town for ice cream, to see a movie, to do everything by ourselves, which we are allowed to do here on the Island, because there are no cars.

The independence makes me feel giddy.  Tom and I wake up at six for the next two mornings and go to the beach alone.  The adults are asleep, but told us we could go the night before.  No one told us to be safe.  We wade in up to our knees, looking for jelly fish, looking for special shells.

Later in the day we go to town in Ocean Beach to buy ice cream and Wacky Pack cards which we will trade later.  Tom gives me his bubble gum.

Saturday evening, while the grownups are having cocktails and recovering from a big day, relaxing on the beach, Tom and I are given five dollars apiece and sent back to town to see a movie which came out about a year ago: Jaws.  This is a big deal; to see a scary movie, a scary beach movie, without grownups to take us.  We walk along the beach to the theater: a big white house with a screen and folding chairs.  Ten dollars is enough for tickets, popcorn and sodas for us both.

The movie is truly terrifying.  Not just to a pair of ten year olds who know they’ll soon be walking home on the beach, but to everyone.  No one is jaded yet when it comes to horror films.  No one can predict that one day there will not only be Jaws 2, 3, 3-D and 4, but also Michael, Jason, Freddy, Chuckie, Saw and all their sequels.  We are not desensitized to the formula.  This stuff is all new.  So that every time the music reaches a crescendo and there is an attack, everyone in the house screams.  Loudly.   People call out urgent words of caution to the actors.  No one shushes anyone.  We are all in this together.

Later that night, I am afraid to go to the bathroom.  Fire Island is itself a sandbar, which means that in many homes, when you peer into the toilet, you are looking down a deep hole and can see the sea.  After seeing Jaws, peeing under these circumstances seems like a foolhardy thing to do.

I hold it in for as long as I can, then say some kind of prayer, sit and go.  No shark comes, so that the next morning, still alive, still gloriously ten, I am able to help the nation celebrate its bicentennial.  And at night, Tom and I run wild on the beach with a bunch of other kids.  We’re all holding sparklers which we’ve ignited ourselves.

Happy Independence Day to all.

45 responses to “Spirit of 1976, A July 4th Memory (reposted)

  1. So innocent and free. True freedom!

  2. lover your blog. thanks for sharing! 😀

  3. Beautiful post! It was at about that age that I became aware of what a big deal the Bicentennial was for everyone. I missed it, but hope to be around when America turns 300.

  4. Freedom, indeed! I enjoyed your post very much. I was graduating from highschool that year. If anyone then had told us it was a time of innocence, we would have thought they were crazy but it was.

  5. You write extremely well for a ten year old. Keep writing. You have a flair for it.

  6. Lovely post! I enjoyed reading it 🙂

  7. I was 8 but I remember it the same way. I didn’t get to go to the shore though. I spent this summer running around with my neighborhood friends in a little town outside Philly. I didn’t see Jaws yet. Great memories!

  8. I loved this post. I loved summers as a kid.

  9. Love this post. I know in our neighborhood we had a great celebration called Rancho Bernardo Spirit of the Fourth! Happy Birthday America!

  10. Cooling story,I love your shared!!! It make me recognized all of them…thank you^^

  11. What a joy to be 10 years old. So pure, creative, spontaneous and full of joy. We should be allowed to stay in a 10 year old’s frame of mind for our entire lives, we just physically and emotionally mature. Keeping you’re creative confidence up is key!

  12. I remember the Bicentennial like it was yesterday.

  13. I love this story, Lisa! You recall a time when children had more freedom to come and go and do things like light sparklers by themselves, something we think is crazy today. I also love this post because you made me feel nostalgia for my own summer memories.

  14. Great post …you have been handed a free country, your heart tells me you’ll fight to keep it strong and free!

  15. Yep, I too was a kid in ’76 (15) and have fond memories of the bicentenial celebration. Sadly many today seem to have forgotten what freedom really means along with it’s cost and the diligence necessary to guard it and remain informed enough to defend it. I particularly remember the “bicentenial coins” that said 1776-1976, many were actually issued in 1975. Many of us from out generation’s figures are also, sadly, becoming more perfectly “round” these days too, lol

  16. This is a wonderful memory!

  17. I really enjoyed your post. I was 9 and felt that very special bicentennial fever. We took part in the July 4th parade in our neighborhood (back when neighborhoods did that kind of thing) and loved every minute of it. Thanks for the memory lane visit.

  18. I love that you posted about the bicentennial and that you have that same affinity for round numbers! I ran my first marathon because it was one in my home town, on my birthday and the 10th anniversary of the run.
    So where was I on the bicentennial – I was 6 and in Washington DC. All I remember is climbing to our family friend’s rooftop in Georgetown so that we could barely see a speck of fireworks by the monuments. So fun travelling back with you!

  19. I remember being 10 y/o on the 4th in 1976. I was so impressed when they came out with the bicentennial quarters. Yes, those were carefree very patriotic days with plenty of scary movies that would dominate our teen years. That world and this one are very different now. So sad.

  20. A fun piece. I like how you don’t draw it to the perfect, cynched up ending bringing it all together. I like how your parents aren’t caught up in senseless Nationalistic anniversary fever, and you are given permission to go to the beach with a boy without them… your descriptions are spare and spot on. I was there… in the spirit of the writing and my own time. You write very well. Good stuff. Renee

  21. Reblogged this on Nashthedon's Blog and commented:
    long live America, the united states of

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