For 30 years, on the 4th we’d gather at Dot Mithee’s family camp on First Davis Pond in North Guilford.
Mom says he’d ask people six months ahead of time, “You coming up to camp on the 4th?” Everybody was invited. Both sides of the family (Mom’s and Dad’s), friends, and even their dogs were welcome. Mom and Dad would provide chicken, hot dogs and hamburg. Mom would make some potato salad, three bean salad, spaghetti casserole and maybe a (booger) broccoli casserole. After that there was pot luck. Aunt Rose would bring her famous biscuits. Others would bring macaroni salads and sweets. If you went hungry, that was your own fault. People brought their own beverages.
Dad and Bill would attach a huge tarp to the side of the camp, plus a couple of pop-up tents, for shade and for a place to sit if it rains. Years ago, Dad made several wooden benches that were placed around the property.
In the past couple of years, Mom and Dad kept telling me and Bill that they were going to stop the 4th of July celebration. It was too much for them to handle anymore, the camp had no running water and the stove was a bit tetchy. Since Dad got their own Camp Cull ready last year, we were glad to hear that the celebration was going to move there (just a mile away) instead of disappearing entirely.
Then Dad died and we couldn’t do it. Too much too soon.
In the 1990′s I missed a couple of the 4th celebrations, I was living in Boston without a car. Some years I’d make great strides to get there. I haven’t missed a 4th celebration since then. So it’s a bit weird to not be trucking my ass up the highway toward Guilford, Maine. Instead I’m still in my pajamas in Westbrook, with no plans. I’m okay with that. I am sure we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas together as a family, that’s soon enough to experience long-held family rituals without Dad.
As far as me, I’m doing well. I am feeling much better. Better than I’ve felt for a few months. The trip we took last week was truly restorative, just what I needed. So I face today with sadness, but still with hope.