the fourth

by Kristen

One day of the year we all come together. Young and old look forward to it. The youngest don’t have a choice, but the rest of us plan trips around—or in some cases to—it. We keep time by it: “That was the year…”, “Don’t you remember when…?”, “You were a baby, so…”.

It’s not really about the food or the spread of desserts. It isn’t even about the pool or the ping-pong.

It’s about four generations being together. One day, one place, one family.

It isn’t exclusive. It is a rare year at least one friend or relative from another tree isn’t welcomed into our midst.

We sit. We eat. We swim or maybe just float. We talk. We remember.

In the warm summer afternoon time slows down. We simply are.

There’s no one to impress. We’re just us, and it’s glorious.

Then the under five and over 85 year olds tire despite their protestations. The ice cream has long since turned soupy. The shadows have completely covered the not-warm-enough-to-begin-with pool and chased the last shivering child into a towel.

The middle generations pack up the youngest and oldest generations. The goodbyes take progressively longer. We won’t all be here next year. We weren’t all here this year.

But therein lies the power of a family tradition. The faces around the tables change, but year after year the tables are filled.

The 4th of July: national holiday, family treasure.


Note: this was originally written three years ago. The youngest generation continues to increase; the oldest generation continues to decrease. And for the first time in family memory, the tradition broke this year . . . 


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