I’ve seen many articles recently about what July 4th means to each of us individually. July 4 holiday always brings out the patriotism in us and we rally ‘round the flag, praise the brave men and women who fight for us and serve to protect us, eat barbecue, and watch fireworks demonstrations. Being now the matriarch of my family, I’ve been a little more pensive this July 4th thinking back to what it was like growing up and hoping my children will have similarly fond memories one of these days.
As a child, this holiday always meant my dad was on vacation and we would typically spend the week at Myrtle Beach. Daddy didn’t really like the beach, preferring the mountains instead. But he acquiesced and we went to the beach because my mom was a sun worshipper and enjoyed spending all day every day on the beach in the sun. She never went into the water. I can still see her sitting there in her black swimsuit and her wonderful golden tan. I always thought she was the most beautiful person and I wished I could tan like her. I turned lobster red, would peel, and then be the lily-white I was before the sunburn. Absolutely no fun in that!
Daddy was the one who played with my brother and me as we would jump the waves while Mama watched from her beach towel. Daddy would take turns helping us jump the waves or swinging us in the water. We would fly kites and build sand castles. This was one of the few times during the year that we would have Daddy’s undivided attention. Thankfully it was in the days before cell phones and email so when he was away from work, he was really away from work!
These summer vacations continued through my high school and college years. After I married, Mama and Daddy continued their summer vacations but now it was the grandchildren who got the benefit of traveling with them. Daddy always let the grandchildren decide where they wanted to go for their vacation week. The word, No, just didn’t seem to be in Grandmama and Granddaddy’s vocabulary. Guess they wore it out on my brother and me!
As their health begin to fail, my folks had to stop their summer trips and spend their time at home. So we would take our girls and go to visit them in Greenville for July 4th and enjoy my mom’s good Southern cooking. One of my dad’s favorite desserts was blackberry cobbler and Mama’s was the best. When my husband and I moved away, she gave me the recipe but for some reason mine never really tasted quite like hers.
Last week my husband brought home a bag of fresh blackberries that a member of our church had given him. He put them in the refrigerator saying, “I want a cobbler like your mom used to make.” Now that was a tall order and one I wasn’t quite sure I could live up to. How I wished Mama was still around to help me make that cobbler for him. Since she died in March, I was totally on my own. Didn’t seem to matter that I’ve been cooking for 40 years; I felt as nervous as the first time I cooked for my folks when they came to visit us shortly after we married.
“OK, take a deep breath, you can do this.” Melt a half-cup of butter in a baking dish in a preheated 350O oven. Mix together 2 cups sugar, 2 cups self-rising flour, and 2 cups milk. When the butter is melted, pour the batter over the butter and add the fruit. Do not stir or mix. Return to the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the crust is brown and pulls away from the side of the pan. Not so hard, I thought.
Guess Mama was with me after all because the cobbler turned out to be the best one I’ve ever made and for the first time really tasted like ones she would make.
So if someone ever asks me what July 4th means to me, I’ll have to begin with thanks for the men and women in the armed forces and for the men and women who are civilian emergency workers, and for our freedom of religion and speech. Lastly, I’ll have to say that July 4th means family to me and remembering the good times with my mom and dad and wishing they were still here to share family time with my husband and me, our children, and grandchildren. But I’d give Mom a break and I’d do all the cooking, even dessert!