Of all the holidays that I try to make special for my kids, Independence Day is definitely the most difficult. I start with such high hopes, dressing everyone in red, white or blue polo shirts. This follows a tradition my own mother started, so that we could look back at the perfect photos and laugh at how "put-together" we seemed. We could have kidnapped people and locked them in the basement, but Mom would have us looking like we just came straight from a Von Trapp family reunion. I think one Easter she actually did make our matching outfits out of some curtains.
Anyway, I try to pack light but not forget the essentials, like sun screen, bug spray and Valium. I have cash for carnival rides (that I'm pretty sure were built during the roaring twenties and last inspected right before WWII). I have cash for little trinkets that will break in one day (coated in only the best Chinese lead-based paint) and pony rides (from the the most depressed-looking little ponies that, please God, have all their shots). I have cash for a little snack (like a $20 highway robbery of a funnel cake). I pack your standard "diaper bag 9mm" because I'm carrying so much cash.
And we're off!
I figure I'll start off with something nice and easy, like a happy parade filled with emergency vehicles and servicemen and women. Oh yes. Now I remember. This is where I have to keep a hand on the baby-filled stroller, which of course I can't fit through the crowd to the front, while I try to keep the other child from chasing after the candy that landed in the middle of the street. Leave it to my kid to get run over by an ambulance in a parade. Already I'm sweating, and it's not even 100 degrees out.
After the parade we head down the street, me too busy waiting for my son to choke on hard candy to bother steering around people on the sidewalk. I think we should follow the four-way stop rule on that one: If I have kids with me and don't make eye-contact, you better yield the right of way. They should make strollers with cattle guards on the front.
Of course, I have to be careful not to feed the children too much. It's not that I mind them eating a ton of junk food on a holiday, it's that eating makes them need to poop. Usually in the middle of a meal. Now, if you have ever been to a carnival with a child, you have probably noticed that one Johnny-on-the-Spot is not enough for a million people. This is why I think people that plan these events don't have children. And although I've never read Dante's Inferno, I'm pretty sure that one of his stages of hell should have involved being crammed into a really smelly Johnny-on-the-Spot in sweltering July heat.. with a baby on your hip...and a child who takes nearly half an hour to poop. I would have given up and died in there, but there was no way in Dante's Hell I was going to waste the rest of that $20 funnel cake waiting in the stroller outside.
After awhile, by some divine grace, the baby goes to sleep. Then the thumping bass of some hip-hop blows through the speakers. It's loud enough so that our fallen military personnel can hear hear it from the "other side", and it ensures that any children who happened to have stopped crying and dosed off can be awakened to further enjoy the festivities.
I look at the pink baby - hot, tired and long ago pealed down to just a diaper. I look at my 6 year old, his "The Grinch" face-paint smeared and melted all over his face and shirt; his body covered in sand and sunscreen and powdered sugar. I study my own reflection as I walk by a large, downtown window. I look like I've just escaped from a mental hospital - large chunks of ponytail hanging limply from the festive ponytail holder, my shirt soaked in sweat and baby spit up and decorated with a wad of gum in one corner. So we didn't get the polo shirt photo... but we survived! We did it!!! I am an awesome mom! All that's left is the fireworks tonight......
And how hard could THAT possibly be?