It's nearly the 4th of July...a time I think all expats have a bit of difficulty. The 4th of July, Thanksgiving and probably Christmas, for me, are the hardest to be away from the US. Our uniquely American holidays of the 4th and Thanksgiving are times for family, friends, parties, booze, hot dogs and brats and parades and fireworks (not so much on Thanksgiving really...the Native American's didn't share that with us!). I have been living permanently in the UK since 2005 and have a wonderful, happy life with my hubby and amazing Little Miss. I don't miss the US, really, but on certain occasions, like the 4th of July, I do. Shall I wax nostalgic for the days of my youth??
Well, my childhood summers were spent at our cottage on Sand Lake in Northern Wisconsin. At the time, it was owned by my Grandparents (my late grandfather built it with his own two hands) but we spent most of our summers there as my parents were both teachers and we had the time to spare. My younger brother and I whiled away the days, swimming on the lake, making mud pies on the dock, avoiding mosquitos and watching tv on the 3 channels that actually came in. The cottage then was not what it is today. It is now a beautiful most-of-the-year round home with running water, good electricity, satellite television and internet! Then it was smaller, slightly creepier, full of spiders, cobwebs and mice and had a distinctly musty smell about it. I had a love/hate relationship with the cottage. As I grew older and was in middle and high school, I hated it! Hated being dragged away from my friends, hated having no MTV to watch, hated sharing too much space with my brother, hated hearing the mice running up and down inside the walls at night and hated sleeping on the couch under a sheet so the mosquitos wouldn't carry me away. When I was younger, I loved it! Loved roasting marshmallows and making smores, loved swimming, swimming and more swimming, loved learning to water ski and boogie board, loved fishing for sun fish and having a fish fry, loved the smell of the mosquito bite medicine my Grandma used, love making mellon balls and helping get ready for the Annual Pontoon Parade on the 4th. After leaving college and returning to my hometown from Chicago in 1992, I began a new affection for the cottage. By then it was a newer, fancier version of the original and had more to offer while still giving me the things I loved from childhood. I began to visit more often, take ownership of parts of it by painting and leaving my little mark on different things and even began to think of the day when it might be mine and I would bring my kids there. I threw myself into helping on the 4th of July again and really grew to love the cottage. Our 4th of July's were great fun. Our lake always had a Pontoon Parade and every year that I can remember, we were in it. Apparently one year, my grandpa was the only one in it! There was a competition for the best float and I became quite competitive in latter years to try to win the darn thing. We always tried to do something timely and current as opposed to patriotic. One year we had Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden who were seeking refuge on Sand Lake! We still have the cutouts of them, I think! My stepbrothers began to get involved in the fracas as well and added a new dimension to the pontoon float...a small row boat towed behind the pontoon with them inside along with assorted friends who whooped and hollered and generally created chaos. Such fun! I really miss that! The scurrying about the night before to firm up the theme and what we needed, the painting and stuffing and stringing up of stuff, the loading of the pontoon, the consumption of Bloody Mary's and various picnic food items (Grandma's Deviled Eggs...mmmm) while bustling to make the 1pm deadline to be across the lake and ready to parade! I'd love to be there to live it all again and show my English Hubby what a real 4th of July is and show my 1 year old daughter how competitive Mummy can be. And I know my Dad wishes we were there as well...what a great team we all make when we get together. We'd win the Sand Lake 4th of July Pontoon Parade for sure!
But, sigh, it's not to be for now. Instead, I ring and hear the chaos in the background and wish we were there. The ridiculously high cost of travel between the UK and US in July prevents us from being there. But one day...we'll make it so I can show Little Miss what the 4th of July is all about, Sand Lake style. So, in our absence, we'll leave it to my Dad, Stepmum, Stepbrothers and Brother to carry the torch and win the Pontoon Parade and I'll try not to be sad when they tell me. Happy Independence Day to all my family in the US, to the residents of Sand Lake Wisconsin and all the expats in the UK! Wave the flag a little...it's OK...the English won't notice...they give us one day to be patriotic without insult anyway. And as my Dad says when he drives round on the pontoon...
HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!!!!
This post was written by Karin, who blogs at Cafe Bebe. She is a first-time stay-at-home mummy who wants to help others and hopes to open a real-life Cafe Bebe soon.
Photo credit: scruffdog