If you were to ask someone what their favorite holiday is, chances are you’d get “Christmas” from about 98% of the population. The other 2%, is the Canfield family, whose favorite holiday is unanimously the Fourth of July. Not because we’re super-patriotic, or because we all look great in red, but because NOTHING beats the mental picture of my seventy-five-year-old grandpa running, jumping, and FACE-PLANTING in a huge sand pit in Brooke’s backyard. The Family Backyard Olympics. Needless to say, Grandpa never won the long jump. We constructed a pit, measured it to scale, dug it out, and filled it with sand – just for us. But this shouldn’t be a surprise to you from the family that fills out brackets for our yearly ping-pong tournaments. We have ribbons for the winners, because everything is a game.
We even judge our Easter egg decorations – most creative, most artistic, funniest, cutest, most Easter-ish, ugliest, and dumbest. As long as you don’t win either of the latter two categories, it’s all gravy. (I’m sure many a suitor to many a Canfield girl has been scared away by all the judging involved in every family activity.) We also have a contest to see who can roll their Easter-egg the furthest down grandpa’s impressively long, steep driveway – rain or shine. This egg-rolling sport is quite official, and you CAN be disqualified. My dad tries to cheat every year, which is how the “no shrink-wrapped eggs” rule came to be.
When we go Christmas caroling - we bring instruments and perform like a choir. I’m an alto and sing the low harmony in “Joy to the World.” We’re pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. If you’d like us to show up at your door to spread some Christmas cheer, just let us know. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a guitar, kazoo, harmonica, a lone drum, and some shaker eggs.
But back to the holiday at hand, the Fourth of July. It was scheduled chaos. We all received our itinerary for the week via email a few days before we traveled north to meet in PA. Everyone had a task to complete: while Uncle Steve and Uncle Bill set up the backyard for the Summer Olympics, Taylor and Michael filled up water balloons for the annual water-fight in Grandpa’s backyard. Kids v. Adults. One year, Grandpa snuck down the hill in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT and stole all our water guns. We were pissed. Another legendary year, we were all running around like banshees with buckets and squirt guns when we heard a battle cry from above! My Aunts Joyce, Jan, and Cheryl had climbed on top of the roof and were firing balloons at us from higher ground. The only real casualty was Uncle Steve and the video camera – the tape is hilarious – three heads popping up over the peak of the roof like prairie dogs, the sky peppered with water balloons – and then – Bam! Black fuzz.
So the itinerary for July third went something like this: Downtown parade, followed by the backyard Olympics – then the water fight, sparklers for the little ones, and then fireworks in Grandpa’s backyard. (My Dad, brother, and I drove down to the boarder of South Carolina to purchase the illegal fireworks before heading north for the holiday.) We’ve had more than one near-death experience at the hands of fireworks gone awry. Most notably the time the Roman Candle tipped over towards the deck where all 35 of us were sitting. There was a great slow-motion moment where we all mouthed, “OOOOHHHH NOOOOO.” Then the fuse ran out, and it was every man for himself as we scrambled, under fire, for the limited space under the picnic tables.
The next day, the Fourth, we spent at the celebration at Litiz Springs Park. Uncle Steve emceed (and performed) every year. Brooke performed too – tumbling and dancing with her troupe. I always felt very cool and a little bit famous to be there with the entertainment.
Michael and Taylor wandered around playing games and winning worthless prizes: big colorful wooden canes and goldfish that lasted for less than a week. There were thousands of white candles all over the park – lining the sidewalks on both sides, the stream, and all the stairs. They were lit at dusk, and the entire place twinkled. It was magical.
When it got really dark, we’d grab one last orange sno-cone and head over to the field where some of the Aunts had staked a place for us to sit and watch the fireworks display. Finding them, was an ordeal. Delicately tiptoeing around lawn chairs, sunburned women, kids playing with glow-sticks, and frisbees everywhere. The sea of checkered blankets seemed to stretch on forever. When we reached our blanket, we settled in and waited breathlessly. Within minutes, the enormous speakers sprung to life, and we felt the ground shake underneath us as the first firework rocketed into the air.
The fireworks show at Litiz Springs Park is put on by Clair Brothers, a goliath sound company who are better known for their production of U2 concerts – quite literally the best sound in the world. We would watch for an hour as huge bursts of color exploded over head. We could feel each crack and bang in our chests; it was magnificent. The chorus of “ooh’s and ahh’s” echoed and hung with the sparks in the night sky.
Sitting awestruck with my family, on a glorious night, in the dead of summer. Of course it is myvery favorite holiday.