July 4, 2009

Independence Day

July 4th brings many memories for me. Mostly, Boston butts roasting in the bar b q pit in the back yard. My father loved to cook and this might have been his favorite holiday. He didn't seem to mind sweating in the hot Alabama sun, as long as the meat was coming out juicy and tender. The whole neighborhood was invited, which was a good thing, as the aroma of roasting pork in a delectable b b q sauce would make one's mouth water with envy. We ate corn on the cob, slaw, sliced tomatoes, squash casseroles, corn bread and a plethora of desserts including Gladys's homemade peach ice cream as well as my favorite thing; watermelon. My grandfather grew different varieties, yellow-meated being the sweetest. It was a happy time. Flags, neighbors, children, sprinklers and now what seems to be forgotten flavors..who knew they were so good!

I met my husband on a 4th one fateful day in Boulder, Colorado. Our dear friend Michael had annual parties that took on a different flare. Frisbee's, cold beer, loud music, fireworks. The food was still good, but with a more southwestern/Mexican touch. The piece d'resistance was Joyce Stoner's flag cake. A chocolate cake covered in bright, fairly inedible red white and blue icing, the design of the US flag. I ate it willingly, even looked forward to it. Joyce's infectious smile and joyful heart made that cake irresistible. I was a sweet 19 year old with stars in my eyes.

In the summer of 2001 my son Graham, (then 17, now 25) and I were invited to San Tropez, on the coast of France to go sailing. We took the train up from Italy and met our friends at the port. We were driven in the dingy out to the boat, which has a name and a history to curtsy to. We had no idea what we were in for until our eyes landed on the the 'Endeavor', a 130 ft. J class classic sailing sloop which was launched in 1934. One of the most formidable and famous sailing yachts in the world. It was an initiation for Graham. He was splashed with the anchor. Forever a sailor he will be now~ and a lover of beautiful boats. We ate succulent scampi over juicy lettuces, mingled with fresh and fruity Bandol, the well loved Rose' from Provence. This trip was not only 'formidable' (form i dab bl) as the French would say, but 'mem ora bl' as well.

As I have traveled back and forth from Italy over the last 17 years, I have always chosen to return home on the 4th. My children might accuse me of wanting fireworks upon arrival, but it happens to be one of those landmark days I seem to revolve my life around.

Last year, July 12th, 2008 I lost my father. He died peacefully at home and we were all by his side. No more Boston butts, no more fried catfish or long talks on the porch, yet I have grateful memories of my simple American childhood and thanks to my father I have a love of good food, gardens and community. I am also no longer married, yet I have a close relationship with my former husband and his present wife. Our family inclusive, rather than exclusive. I no longer have Joyce's cake to celebrate Independence Day, but I have myself. My mother always said, 'I raised my girls to be independent.'. Thanks Mom. I"m one darn independent woman
who knows the benefit and blessing of being interdependent with all things. Other cultures included.

As I sit in the countryside of Marrakech this 4th of july, with the thermostat at 43 degrees Celsius, I am aware that in Fahrenheit that it's around 106. In this big world of ours I am astounded by our similarities rather than our differences. I am brought back home, full circle on this day, with one simple site. A watermelon truck. As I sink my teeth into the sweet red juicy meat, I am transported to the back porch of my grandfather on a hot day, not unlike this one and I smile. No different than I did as a child. Although I appreciate where I am, my ancestors are no longer around, and I think of them smiling down at me sitting by a pool, under the palm trees of the Palmeraie, spitting watermelon seeds into a rose garden.


Joy of Cooking said...

Peggy- what a sweet and heartfelt story. Food and family - tutto! Grazie, cara.

peggy markel said...

Thanks Joy. So sweet of you to write in.

hddvt said...

Hi Peggy. This is Harley (Mike and Jeff's friend). I came across your "poem" of July 4th and really enjoyed it. I live in Vermont with Nancy, and we're doing well. Our son Harley is 20 and works in a restaurant on the U of Vermont campus. Glad to see you are doing well. WE met Graham 2 yrs ago in Mexico. Nice man. Perhaps we'll see you again some day. Regards, Harley (Donnelly)

Lainie said...

What a beautiful post, Peggy! Thank you for your gorgeous and thoughtful writing. I have so many memories of beautiful fireworks over various bodies of water. . .and my beautiful sister-in-law, who died four years ago on Independence Day, of breast cancer. She was only 43, and a wonderful woman -- I send all the fireworks in the sky to her lovely spirit.