The Fourth of July is not a time, nor an event, it is a place.
Specifically, it is on Whidbey Island, between a low green house and a shallow green lagoon. It consists of a mammoth sand pile, a collection of more-or-less leaky rowboats, an assortment of chairs and picnic tables, a fire pit (essential this year), and a whole lot of salmon dip.
And, of course, a crowd of dimly-remembered relatives.
Most family reunions fall down on the problem of being either expensive or terminally boring for everyone under sixty. This reunion has been going strong since the current over-sixty generation were toddlers (although it was held on a beach back then), and despite cold and clammy weather, scored one of its highest attendances.
I have only been once since I was married, and I haven't seen many of the cousins my age since well before that. But I noticed them trickling back in. They have toddlers, too, now, and they remember playing on that sand pile and splashing in the lagoon (though only the Polar Bear Club was in for it this year) and exploring uncharted waters in the rowboats and the year Craig lit the grass on fire with the bottle rockets. And they remember me and I remember them . . . a little . . . and in a world where everything else comes and goes and people have died that we didn't think would die so soon it matters more to be here, every year, just like it always was and has been.
The older ducklings have been before, when they were too young to remember much, but they remembered this year, all right. The ride on the ferry. The rowboats. The sand pile. The unlimited food. The pool table. They both agreed that the Fourth of July was the best possible day of the year, with Christmas earning an honorable mention.
I suppose change must come some day, but if the reunion can continue long enough, someday they'll be bringing their kids, too.