e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


fourth of july

Growing up, I don't recall doing many patriotic things. Actually I can't recall doing *any* patriotic things. We didn't have a flag. We didn't sing patriotic songs or say the Pledge of Allegiance. And when we had picnics on the 4th of July, the food tended to be ethnic: zucchini-parmesan bake, pasta salad (the kind with olive oil, not mayo!), sausage sandwiches, fried hot peppers. I recall that my grandfather had a flag at his house that he would raise on nice mornings and then take down in the evenings. He was a veteran of World War II and I remember figuring that most vets probably had flags but normal civilians didn't. I have no idea whether this experience was an anomaly or not for kids growing up in the 70s and 80s, a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate world.

The greatest memory I have of Independence Day was 1985. I was eleven. My parents, sister, and I went to see a matinee of "Back to the Future," that all-time classic summer "event movie." We never went to the movies and I bet my mom and dad can count on one hand the number of movies they've seen at a theater since July 4, 1985. My dad took me to see "Stand by Me" a year or two later, mainly because I was obsessed with Stephen King books at the time and positively elated at the thought of seeing an adaptation of his work at the movies. But going to the movies as a family? That never happened.

We all loved the film. A Huey Lewis theme song? The kid who played Alex P. Keaton on the bigscreen? What's not to love. I remember kind of identifying with the storyline, too, and reading myself into the plotline as kids (and adults) tend to do. My parents, like the McFlys, were high school sweethearts in the 50s. I was always kind of fascinated about whether their lives matched pop culture representations of their generation, though for some reason I never really asked them. Did you go to sock hops and drink malts? Did your teachers think rock and roll was evil? I think I got my answers to these questions from Back to the Future and took some kind of comfort from the answers that the film provided. Yes, your parents got into trouble too. Yes, your parents were awkward too. Maybe that's why this is my greatest 4th of July memory. Maybe it's got less to do with how cool and rare and fun it was to go the movies with my mom and dad and more to do with what I learned about them from both the fictional world on the screen and the imagination in my head.


lazy j ranch said...

No. I don't think we were patriotic at all. I do remember Grandpa D's flag though, and figured it was a veteran thing. Never considered having one of our own. I do have a 4th of July memory. Uncle Paul's backyard lighting railroad "fusees". I could write my name in the dark sky with the red, glowing, toxic smelling sticks and it was sort of like regular sparklers. Actually, I'm not even sure it was the 4th but it had that dangerous fireworks feeling.
As far as the movies go, you forgot when Sam Rokus worked in a projection room. He invited us to see the operation and watch That Darn Cat. He knew the concession stand girl and scored us some popcorn too. Good Times.

bdegenaro said...

Oh snap. Forgot about Sam's tenure as a projectionist. How odd of a career tangent was that? I don't remember going there more than once or twice. Don't recall That Darn Cat--I think I remember seeing a retrospective showing of Dumbo? And I remember the caricature that used to hang in their kitchen of Sam in the booth.