In my senior high school yearbook, towards the end of the little write-up that I painstakingly crafted to most accurately portray my high school experience, there’s a line that reads “…a final thanks to my Pleasantville family and neighborhood…”. When I wrote “Pleasantville”, I meant this Pleasantville, the 1998 movie about 2 teenagers who find themselves transported into an idyllic 1950’s sitcom.
Growing up, I sometimes felt like I was living in my very own idyllic 1950’s sitcom. My neighborhood was the kind of place where there were so many kids my age that I never had to worry about not having anyone to play with. A place where neighbors were known to make each other baked goods from scratch and meet in the driveway to chat after work, and most importantly, one where the annual 4th of July cookout was the big event of the year.
These cookouts were one of the highlights of my (very charmed) childhood, and next to “the fair”, probably what I looked forward to most each year. Almost every year that I can remember, the close-knit group of neighbors who lived at the end of Bridle Path would take turns playing host and invite the whole neighborhood over to celebrate America’s independence—but really it was just an excuse to throw a party and invite everyone over for a good time.
The kids would run around for hours and do typical kid things like put on talent shows starring our American Girl Dolls and insist that the adults choose a winner—which much to our chagrin they never would, most likely to avoid the inevitable meltdown that the last place “winner” would have. We’d all feast on summer BBQ fare and cakes made of strawberry stripes and blueberry stars, and when the sun went down and the grill went cold, the dads would head down to the end of the street and wow us all with a homegrown fireworks show—which the moms would nervously watch from the sidelines, trying as best they could to shield us from the falling embers.
Those cookouts will always be one of my favorite childhood memories and the driving factor behind why as a child, the 4th of July—not Christmas like every other normal kid—was my favorite holiday (and still kind of is).