Celebrating the Fourth

Published 10:26 am Friday, July 11, 2014

While I was growing up, July Fourth was always about the Sturdivant family reunion, which we had out in the country in a small community that isn’t labeled on any map. It’s where my great-grandmother lived, and where my grandmother and her siblings grew up.

Cain in Newsoms taking pictures of the tractors going by.

Cain in Newsoms taking pictures of the tractors going by.

My family also lived there until the house burned down. I would eat my usual share of fried chicken, home made vegetables, homemade ice cream and then, of course, a second dessert of banana pudding. My great-grandmother’s banana pudding was always the best thing there.

Then, sometimes, I’d sneak off back to the concrete foundation where my home had been. I would look around, touch the concrete, look at the markings, and try to visualize what it had looked like. When it burned down, I was a toddler and had no memory of it.

It would have made no impression on me at all, had I not been brought back there one year and told about it.

I don’t think I ever got very far in actually visualizing it because there was so much more to explore out in the country. And besides that, at some point, a trailer was plopped down on top of it, and inside the trailer was a room of old toys. Even when I was “too old” for toys, I still snuck in to play with them.

This year, I started off my Fourth at the Whitley Family Reunion — their 150th celebration of it. With the exception that we always had ours outdoors (but the food inside), the set-up definitely brought back good memories. There were two rows of tables, each lined with plenty of food, including one of my favorites, fried chicken.

Then there were more rows of families sitting together, talking and catching up. My grandmother always kept up with what everyone was doing, so in adulthood at least, I always had a good idea of where to start talks. As a child, of course, none of that really mattered. It was just fun to go out in the country. And as a teenager, I didn’t want to go at all, but I was usually forced. There were no video games to be played out there!

My next visit was the Fourth of July Parade in Newsoms. I had gone last year and thought it was interesting enough to make a return visit. This year, I recognized and was recognized by more folks, as I’ve seen them (and been seen) at various events throughout my time here.

You can see me in the picture up there, squatting in my usual catcher’s position in the middle of the street being obnoxious and taking pictures as the parade went by.

I had a good time at it this year, too. It was good to see people come together to celebrate our great country, as well as the great community.

My next trip was to Windsor for the fireworks. For days I had fretted, looking at weather apps and the hurricane’s progression, fearing that the rain would come in and blow away the joy of seeing bright explosives taking over the night’s sky in celebration of America.

Thankfully, all Hurricane Arthur did was cool off the day and evening — making it much more pleasant for Western Tidewater to celebrate family, community and our country.

CAIN MADDEN is the Managing Editor of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at cain.madden@tidewaternews.com or 562-3187.