By Theresa Patton
I was walking around Fred Meyer with one of my four year old boys the other day, browsing the post Fourth of July sale items, when he suddenly asked, “Mom, what is your favorite holiday?” Without hesitation, “Fourth of July” came out of my mouth. I surprised myself with this declaration because I always considered myself to be a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas person.
I love the cozy winter holidays; however, still riding the energy from Independence Day this year really had me feeling grateful and enthusiastic about our community, our family and our life here in Tualatin.
I grew up in a small mid west town in Illinois where we ate hotdogs at the community park with the mayor after our parade. I rode my bike to the candy store and library as an elementary school girl. The Dads in the town all coached the softball teams; and yes, we even had a ice cream soda shop for awhile.
I’m in my mid thirties now, but I do get nostalgic thinking about my growing up years in small town America. I often find myself wishing that my kids were able to have the same small town experience.
This is my 14th Fourth of July celebrated in Oregon, my fifth one living here in Tualatin. Life has changed a lot for me; this year my triplet sons are four and my daughter is six. This is the first year we could really embrace Fourth of July and all the festivities.
Since moving to Tualatin, the celebration on this day has been nothing less than extraordinary. We live in the Fox Hills neighborhood and we have a tradition of a community parade. I didn’t know what to expect the first year when someone told me of this tradition. At that time, my babies were six months old and my daughter just two years old. Nonetheless, I was determined to be apart of this new neighborhood celebration and together my husband and I navigated our way through the parade pushing our three babies and toddler daughter in the intense four o clock heat.
Spectators, people we did not yet really know, cheered us on and marveled at our crew. I wearily waved back, amazed at our new neighborhood’s patriotic party!
I remember enjoying all the kids zipping passed on their decorated bikes, dreaming of the day when my kids would be old enough to take on the parade independent of our manpower.
Now finally, years later, we’ve arrived at this season. My kids went to bed the night before the big parade event, giddy with anticipation. Jumping out of bed the next morning they excitedly decorated their bikes; this year I didn’t have to do much except walk next to them in the parade as they zig zagged through the streets, proudly waving at our neighbors and friends.
Sometimes as the days go by it’s difficult to see the changes that happen slowly in life, the fading away of one season and the transition into another. For me, it’s these big milestone events that cause me to think back and remember how I once navigated these experiences. It really does cause me to pause and recognize the steady, slow changes in my family and my life. Time does march on, like one big Fourth of July Parade.
Familiarity. Friendship. Gathering.
This is what ‘Small Town’ is.
After the procession down the streets, our neighborhood has quite the party. With part of a street blocked off, people come to enjoy a band and food. The kids run carefree around the cul de sac. The red, white and blue holiday spirit abounds! There is dancing, laughter and talking. People are coming together, enjoying the day. Sitting on my red blanket, eating a cheeseburger with my family and friends, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that I am having a small town America experience. Safety. Community. Familiarity. Friendship. Gathering. This is what ‘Small Town’ is.
‘Small Town’ is knowing that people genuinely want good for each other; small town is feeling at ease if you lose sight of your kids.
Small town is eating together, laughing together, being united by a desire to enjoy life and live it well. It’s a knowing that the people who surround you care. It’s a culture of unity, despite the differences.
As I watched my kids joyfully dancing on the street later that night with the other kids around them, I was convinced that my kids were participating in a small town Fourth of July.
As the sun set that night, the atmosphere suddenly became electric. I stood on my back deck with one of my sons and we listened to booms of firecrackers that echoed all around us. My son nestled into my neck. I could tell he was a little nervous about the explosions, but I know he felt safe and happy. He just enjoyed the most wonderful day. “How many more days until Fourth of July?” my kids asked me the following morning. “364,” I replied.
Their faces suddenly looked disappointed when they understood that was a lot of time. After a moment of contemplation, my daughter shrugged and decided to set her sights on Halloween. And, if you know anything about a small town, a small town Halloween is just as spectacular.