When I was a kid my family had a great annual tradition for the Fourth of July. Aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends would all rent campsites at Myles Standish State forest, usually at Fearing Pond. Some came in campers and some in tents but everyone shared and helped each other out. It was a wonderful way to get the family together and we often stayed for a week or two.
We tried to get adjoining sites so that a big pit could be dug in the center one. Once the hole was dug and lined with many rocks, a wood fire was lit on top of the rocks. My mother and aunt would often stay behind to tend the fire while the rest of us piled into the biggest station wagon available and headed down to the jetty in Plymouth to gather seaweed. Iím not sure why gathering seaweed was such a fun event, perhaps it was because it was a job that everyone could do, from the smallest child to the oldest person in the clan.
Fresh seaweed, corn on the cob, clams, lobsters, sausages and potatoes were thrown into the pit and then the kids got to throw more seaweed in on top of it all. We usually ended up covered with seaweed because throwing it at each other was just as much fun as throwing it into the pit.
While the adults socialized at the campsite, tending the food and setting up picnic benches end to end, we kids would head down to the baseball field with sparklers in hand for some more fun. We generally didnít return until around dusk and thatís when the food was coming out of the pit.
There is nothing like the smell of the steam that pours out of the clambake pit once the tarp is pulled off and itís hard not to smile as you watch it happen.
I think that was the joy of this celebration for us. Everyone was involved in the preparation, working together to make it happen, and everyone ate together once the food was ready.
It was a magical time full of American flags, sparklers, hearty food and real comradery.
Another long-standing New England tradition is to build a bonfire on the beach on the fourth of July. Someone always brings a guitar and singing is inevitable. Itís a more peaceful event than watching fireworks, although on a number of occasions we accomplished this within sight of a great fireworks display.
I think if I were to plan a perfect Independence Day celebration, it would have to involve a real New England clambake and a bonfire on the beach at sunset. If that beach also offered a great view of a fireworks display, and if the bioluminescent plankton showed up in the water on that same night, well that would be just as perfect as it gets !
Happy 4th of July to you all. I hope that this one brings you many fond memories that last a lifetime.