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WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF THE FOURTH OF JULY? A LOOK AT MY FAMILY’S CELEBRATIONS IN THE PAST, PRESENT, AND BEYOND
My childhood Fourth of July memories fall into two camps: the day of and the day after. In fact, if I had to choose, I’d probably say my recollections of July 5 are even more vivid. That’s because I grew up in Queens in the 1980s, back before New York City’s fireworks laws were really enforced, which meant that July 5 looked like a war zone. It was a whole other world back then! Every year, families from all over Middle Village flocked to Juniper Park with their fountains, smoke bombs, and snakes smuggled in from who knows where. Then, they shot them off while the cops stood back and watched the show. My family didn’t usually join in, but we kids liked to light up sparklers and check out everyone else’s displays. The downside was that on July 5, my baseball team had to wade through a foot of fireworks wrappers, spent cartons, and other junk to practice in the park. I still remember the trash crunching under my cleats and the hassle of pushing it all away from the field so we could play. Although it didn't stick out as a big deal to me back then, it is now one of my most vivid summer memories. I’m glad the laws are enforced now because as an adult, I’d hate to see my tax dollars go to cleaning up that junk! Plus, I’m sure my boys are a lot safer since we leave the fireworks to the professionals. As I’m writing this newsletter, the Fourth of July is just around the corner, and I’ve been thinking a lot about years past and how those celebrations might compare to the present and future. For the last few summers, we’ve had a great Fourth of July tradition here in Bayside. Every year, people from across the boroughs walk or bus up to Fort Totten at the top of the hill and watch the fireworks. It’s usually a bit of a carnival atmosphere, and it’s a great time to get together with friends, let the kids run wild playing Frisbee, and snack on funnel cakes, sausage and peppers, and Italian ices from the food stalls. Being there never fails to remind me of childhood trips to the county fair in Pennsylvania, where I first discovered the wonders of funnel cake. Sure, there were award-winning giant pigs, dairy cows you could pet, and
all kinds of carnival games, but nothing held my attention like that awesome combination of powdered sugar and deep-fried dough. That pairing is the essence of summer, and even my wife, who grew up without funnel cakes in Italy, agrees. The Italian version is called zeppole . As it turns out, kids all over the world love a good deep-fried, sugary treat. Anyway, it’s a bit sad to think that the odds of the Fort Totten tradition going forward this year are slim. I’m not giving up on the Fourth of July, though! Instead of mourning the old way of doing things, I’m looking forward to making new traditions with my family. I’ve found that the best way to cope with the pandemic is to focus on the positives. Being at home has brought my boys closer, helped me and my wife communicate better, and even saved us some money because we’re cooking at home more often. Maybe this will be the year that I attempt to make funnel cakes from scratch — I found a great recipe on TasteOfHome.com! I hope that going forward, my family and yours will be able to combine the best of both worlds. Next Fourth of July, maybe we can have it all: the raucousness of my early childhood, the collaborative fun of Fort Totten, and the reflective closeness of now. Whatever your own celebration looks like this year, happy Fourth of July from my family to yours!
–Dr. Robert Morea 718.747.2019 ▪ THEPTDOCTOR.COM ▪ 1
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