Sunday, July 6, 2008
My Fourth of July
The fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday, mainly because it's in the beginning of the summer, with all those lolling, luscious days left to anticipate. Since moving here to the northwest, it's even more coveted as July 4 is known as the first day of summer, the day after which we deign to get some sunshine. Well, it hasn't happened yet--today is solidly overcast and dreary--but that didn't dim my thrill watching the fireworks from my own patio on Friday night.
This year, as July 4 fell on Shabbat, I felt I wasn't going to get much of a celebration. Usually we attend some fun event as a family--often the big party given by a radio station--or at least go to our nearby park, crowded with jolly revelers picnicking in anticipation of the big fireworks display choreographed to a performance by the local symphony orchestra. It's true, I lost that, as I had to spend the day, as I do most every Friday, cooking in preparation for Shabbat. We planned to have guests both Friday night and Saturday for lunch, and of course that means planning, shopping, and cooking the entire day before. If I don't get my challah up by mid-day, then it won't rise to my satisfaction and become the yummy doughy confection my guests expect. There's nothing like delicious challah, fresh out of the oven, on a Friday night.
At least I'd celebrated the night before, when we'd gone with dear friends to the traditional July THIRD fireworks at the Norwegian fijord port of Poulsbo. To get there, you have to take a ferry, and the wait in line to board was about an hour and a half, which made the anticipation of our fireworks all the more intense. When, at 10:30 pm, the sky lit up with those ever-more-creative displays, we were delighted. And by night's end, zonked.
So on Shabbat, which begins just before sundown, we were ready to start our meal just as the unanticipated happened--in addition to the fireworks illuminating the horizon shot off by families and municipalities near and far (and, being mostly far, appearing as miniature color-bursts), a town just across the lake began a magnificent show. My dear friend and I stood on the deck singing "Stars and Stripes Forever" as brilliant displays kept blooming and dripping and exploding before us. I was enraptured!
Unfortunately, my children were...hungry. They kept interrupting my joy to urge me to come in to say kiddush (the blessing over the wine that starts the Sabbath meal) so they could get some of that warm challah. No. No, I wasn't about to give up something that thrilled me! I stood and gaped. I wouldn't budge, as each daughter came and took me by the arm; as my son put his arm on my shoulder to steer me inside. No. No!! This was too wonderful, and right on my doorstep!
Then my husband came out and with his stern, paternal insistence, told me to come in. Am I a doormat? I just gave up my entire July 4th to make their food (spurned when I asked for help by the very children trying to stop my fun). But, unable to stand against their rudeness, I went in, turning toward the window as we sang "Shalom Aleichem" to welcome the Shabbat angels (who, I'm sure, were oogling the fireworks) and Ayches Chayil (which supposedly honors the woman of the house--HA!) and kiddush. And my husband allowed me (!) to watch the fireworks while the others ritually washed for motzi (elevating the eating of the bread)....and once I took that (admittedly luscious) bite of challah, I turned to watch (through the window) the most spectacular "grand finale" you could imagine, with a least a dozen bursting color-flowers in the sky, over fountains of stars shooting from the barge in the lake. Oooooooh, Happy Birthday, United States!! Aren't we the luckiest people in the WORLD!!