July 4th had always come to our house with great thoughts of fun. Family gatherings, clam bakes, swimming, diving off the boat, and food. Aunt Kitty would come off the train from New York City and she would bring delicious cakes unlike any we had ever seen. Aunt Olive and Cousin Ruthie would be there too. Mom, Pop, and us four kids would prepare to go out on the Great South Bay for a day of fishing and swimming, and Pop would tong for clams to bake.
Pop had built a scow boat of good size for us to enjoy the bay. That day we all climbed into Pop’s ’38 Packard (yeah, ’38), headed south, and over the railroad tracks. Mom always said if a train ever hit us, they’d be looking for the other car! Aunt Kitty was always afraid of going over the tracks so Pop had to let her out to walk across. He was not happy.
We proceeded to Brown’s River, where Pop docked the Driftwood, a name which suited her. She was built from driftwood Pop had salvaged from the bay after the ’38 hurricane. She had a landing barge type bow with a hold for clams and also a playpen for the young ’uns. She had an inboard engine with just enough cabin room for you to change your bathing suit, like an enlarged coffee can, or possibly a soft plastic pail if you were lucky.
Pop steered from the stern with a pipe shaped to suit his leg. He held her steady with it. Simple enough. We sailed to Water Island or nearby Cherry Grove. Then Pop dropped us off to
go over the dunes to the ocean for a cooler swim and left us while he went out clamming for the picnic.
I remember one event when Aunt Kitty, hardly the fisherwoman, got Pop to explain how to hold the pole and check her bobbin. She seemed so happy to be “fishing.” Finally she screamed “Fish! I got one!” She pulled it in, flung it through the air, and hit one of the kids in the face with her catch. It was a blowfish. The kids put the blowfish in the pail of seawater to tickle its tummy and watched it blow up and spit. It entertained the kids all the way home, that and sorting the clams from the shelves on the deck.
We had to keep our shirts and hats on, as sunburn was no fun. The boat’s passengers were tired, but looking forward to a great clam bake and picnic. We got out the metal ring to set up the clams. Who brought the seaweed?
At last, it’s underway, the 4th’s celebration, summertime, when the living is easy. The table was set with potato salad, various fresh vegetables, all the special dishes families brag about. This went well until a breeze came up, picked up a paper plate with leftovers on it, and tossed it right in Grandma’s face. Only at a family clam bake!
As the sun went down, soon fireworks will be seen and heard, all around memories of our beautiful flag, with its unique design, flying in our little towns and squares and front yards. It’s still a grand old flag. It represents a complex and evolving people. When threatened, we close ranks faster than you can imagine.
Keep voting, try to increase your involvement with government and don’t hesitate to display a flag, be you conservative or liberal, because it doesn’t mean you’re for or against anything. It means you love being an American, and in the words of Chris Rock, “Hey, ain’t nothin’ wrong wit that.”