I get nervous when the realtor in our neighborhood puts plastic flags in everyone’s yards on Memorial and Independence Day, but having a kid/being a parent continues to prompt me to look at holidays differently. It doesn’t hurt that I’m currently visiting the town where I grew up. So, my son and I did some 4th of July celebrating this year.
I took my son to his first parade. Last year he refused but we ended up having a surprise celebration. This year, as we drove to park at a friend’s house so we could walk the quarter mile into the small town of Arroyo Seco, I told Cavanaugh about when I was in a parade as a kid. My friend’s family owned a honey farm so we all dressed as bees–in black tights and leotards with yellow stripes–and rode around Taos plaza on their flatbed truck. At least, we rode until the parade came to a fast stop and I (with others or maybe just me?) fell off. Ahh, parades.
As we approached my friend’s house, reminiscing about parades long-gone, we came up on a family riding horses with silvery glitter strands in the horse’s tails and glittery red, white, and blue hats on the kids. You know that tingly feeling when your foot is asleep or you’re excited about something? I didn’t quite feel that but my stomach jumped as I told him, “We’re getting our own mini parade. Look at the horses.”
We walked into town, ordered chocolate chip ice cream for Cavanaugh because we can’t actually go near Taos Cow without ordering ice cream, then we found our friends. They’d been crowded out of the area they’d saved for all of us, pushed out of the shade. There’s some nice small town parade hospitality for you. But then the parade started and those meanies next to us didn’t matter a bit because the folks to our right were keeping an eye on all the kids, trading orange popsicles for blue and generally being the kind of neighbors you want to have in a parade, sharing commentary about burro dressed as a unicorn and the kids walking or riding in the backs of trucks so they could throw candy, hand out said blue popsicles or spray us with water guns as a mercy in the midday heat.
I don’t know why I was tearing up. Maybe it was because this was a milestone I was recognizing as it was happening and my boy is trying to learn how to swim, and saying things like, “Speaking of…” to introduce whatever topic he wants to jump to, and as we’re reading stories he asks, “What do we know so far?” What I knew on the fourth is that my boy who grew so many inches at once recently, his pants started falling down, was standing in front of me with my hands over his ears so the police and fire engine sirens from the parade wouldn’t be too loud. He reached up to be held, opening and closing his hands for added emphasis. How can he be simultaneously big and little? How can I? Maybe it was revisiting my childhood with my own child, with my friends and their children. It certainly wasn’t a parade to make one weep.
When we got home, I made what I have alternately considered naming Patriotic Pie, Berry Independent, or Democratic Dessert (because I’m about to give you so many choices). Whatever you call it, it was delicious. Here’s how you do it:
- Make shortbread crust a day ahead (or long enough to put in the freezer to completely cool before you add the rest). The recipe I linked to makes a 9×13″ crust in a pyrex dish.
- Then take 8-16 oz (1 or 2 boxes) neufchatel or cream cheese and beat with a hand mixer.
- Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar to taste.
- Pour in juice of one lemon plus zest OR 1 tsp vanilla OR 1 tsp almond extract.
- Beat with hand mixer until creamy.
- Top cooled shortbread crust with cream cheese mixture. I recommend refrigerating (or quick freezer visit) until cream cheese is firm before adding berries.
- Top with blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. We ended up adding more fresh berries to the flag. Next time, I’ll just drop the berries to cover the entire top. Maybe it’ll look like fireworks exploding.
How did you celebrate the 4th?