The best Fourth of July I had was…a combination of most of my Fourths. I can’t remember any bad ones, but none of them stand out to me as the best.
Typically, when I was young, we started the morning of the Fourth with the Fairfax City Parade (in Virginia, y’all) – a huge, crowded parade where the highlights were the gymnasts and baton twirlers and the candy thrown from fire trucks that lead me to barrel over my five-year-old sister into the street, groping for the prized fruit-flavored Tootsie Roll which I never even ate because I thought they were disgusting.
It was always hot and humid and we were always in a sunny spot because the shady spots were already taken by empty lawn chairs – which I always found unfair…until it benefited me in later years.
We followed up the parade with the Vienna Chili Cook-off, swimming at a pool and then the evening was off to another park for fireworks.
One year when I was about 12, my dad took me, and my sister, to the parade as usual. He told us he had a co-worker that didn’t live far from the parade route and we could park at his house. That was great because it always ended up being a long whiny walk from our car to the parade route.
As we were driving, we approached a small cut-away in the thick trees and bushes, and turned onto a gravel road.
“They live down a gravel road?” I asked.
“I guess so,” said my dad.
Gravel roads weren’t very typical of Fairfax even in the early 80s. As a close suburb of Washington, DC, it was not a small city.
We drove through thick trees on a bumpy, cratered, gravel-turned-dirt road about a hundred yards to a clearing of tall grass, strewn with kid’s toys. Large dogs (probably rabid) barked at our approach. In the middle of the yard was a two-story, paint-chipped house reminiscent of my mom’s descriptions of growing up in a holler in West Virginia. It was the kind of house that if you screamed because you were being butchered alive from inside, or even in the front yard, nobody would pay you any mind.
My dad parked the car and said, “Let’s go.”
“Go where?” I asked.
“I’m not going in there.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t wanna go. I thought we were just parking here.”
“You can’t just park at someone’s house and not say hi.”
My dad shook his head, “Then stay in the car. Come on, Melissa.” He and my sister got out and walked to the front door.
I sunk down in the front seat and waited.
I tried to imagine what my dad and sister could possibly be doing in that house. What did the people look like?
I pondered if the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based on a true story or not and eventually convinced myself that the guy that owned that chainsaw had relocated to Fairfax, Virginia. What would I do if Leatherface came out wielding a chainsaw over his head? I wondered if my dad and sister would come out alive.
After about 30 minutes of worry and fret I heard the front door open. I sunk deeper into the seat. I heard talking outside – my dad and another man’s voice. My dad sounded happy. He was alive!
Then my thoughts changed from concern over my family’s lives to embarrassment over my irrational thoughts. I hoped the man wouldn’t want to meet me. I willed him to not come to the car by chanting in my head, Please don’t come over here. Please don’t come over here. Please don’t come over here.
It worked. He didn’t come over. My dad opened the car door and…
I can’t remember what happened after that. Did we park at their house? Did he get in and drive us to some other place to park? I don’t know. I vaguely remember being late to the parade (probably not, my dad is never late) and having to sit in a hot, sunny spot. But at least we made it there alive.
The other night I asked my sister is she remembered anything about the house. I didn’t expect her to remember anything since she was only five. But she said, “Yeah, I always wondered who those people were. It was like visiting Uncle Eddie’s family in National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
What’s your best Fourth of July memory? Have you ever let your irrational fears take over?
This post is part of Finish The Sentence Friday.