A Deeply Rooted 4th of July

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In brain injury, short-term memory is usually the first to go. Long-term memories are more deeply rooted and can remain intact. When I tell my husband it’s the 4th of July and ask what he thinks happens, he automatically says, “Fireworks. The block party.”

Our neighborhood has been throwing a 4th of July block party since the houses were built in 1953 to accommodate workers at the Douglas Aircraft Company. Every 4th of July, the street is blocked off at 5 p.m., tables are set up, barbeques are lit and food is brought out by neighbors and visitors. Children and dogs roam the traffic free street. Sometimes games are set up, horseshoes or ping-pong or chalk drawing on the street. In the 1990’s when our children were growing up, there were bicycle parades and streamers and roller skates. Now there are scooters and hover boards.

The block party is like long-term memory, deeply rooted and permanently etched in our brains.

I have lived on this block for 28 years now, longer than anywhere I have lived in my life. The 4th of July is a yearly ritual we have never missed.  Each year, there are new neighbors, some houses have been bought and torn down, built anew. Other houses have new renters. There are old neighbors who have moved away but return each year to reconnect. There are the grown children of the few original owners remaining, who grew up on the block and reminisce about who lived in which house.

“These kids feel like this is their street,” said Ruth, who grew up here in the 1960’s. We were standing at the food table while eight and nine year olds whizzed past, chasing each other. “But this was my street, too and Kristen’s and Linda’s.” I’m sure my sons felt that this was their street, too, when they were growing up and played roller hockey where the streets bends into an L shape.

There is a timelessness in the traditions each year. The responsibility for printing the flyers, setting up tables, laying out plates and utensils has been passed on to another generation. There is a comfort in knowing that even as residents change from year to year, the 4th of July block party continues, as it has for the past 55 years. The ritual of greeting new neighbors and connecting with old ones is engrained in our consciousness.

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