I just walked outside my little dead-end neighborhood of 17 or so houses, almost exactly the number of my childhood neighborhood in northern New Jersey.
The houses and lots are a little bigger since money goes further in North Carolina. And yeah, sure, a state professor’s salary is a bit better than that of a printing press mechanic or registered nurse in the 1970s.
But there is a huge hole in my 4th of July experience.
There are no kids riding on their bicycles with American flags taped to their handle bars, ever the risk of poking out one’s eye – something that could probably get a parent in trouble with child protective services these days.
There are no kegs of root beer for the kids and Schaefer or Rheingold for the adults. Or kids pouring Rheingold into their root beer to hide their subversive behavior that the parents knew about anyway – stuff that would definitely get a parent in trouble with child protective services these days.
No Dads uncarting the huge blocks of ice from someone’s beat-up pickup truck to cool the beer and soda.
No one setting up the volleyball net in “The Court” – a place that we’d call a “cul-de-sac” today.
No Moms carrying huge bowls of potato salad and cole slaw up the street.
No Moms yelling, “What the hell’s the matter with you!?!,” at their kid – or someone else’s kid – who just set off a pack of firecrackers at 9 am.
There is no smell of hot dogs and hamburgers grilling or kielbasa and corn-on-the-cob boiling.
Or my Dad’s amazingly kick-ass Manhattan-style clam chowder, a recipe learned from my grandfather.
My other grandparents won’t be picking me up later to take the subway to the Bronx to go see my first major league baseball game: the Yankees playing the Washington Senators at the old, original, unrenovated Yankee Stadium.
My sister is not dressed up as The Statue of Liberty.