Cambodia, The Cayman Islands, Spain, England, Indonesia. Those are the countries in which I spent the last five July 4ths. As you might imagine, none of them celebrated with the fireworks, BBQs, and red white and blue fanfare of my childhood. So when my summer started to shape up, I was determined to make sure I spent the Fourth of July stateside. For the first time in six years, this patriotic girl was going to celebrate Independence Day.
And I was going to celebrate big — in the midst of a Martha’s Vineyard family reunion. The setting could not have been more idyllic. My mom had celebrated on island last summer and described it as “July 4th in a Norman Rockwell painting.” I couldn’t wait to lap up all the adorable I could this time around.
Though massive storms were looming and the entire East Coast was preparing for the worst, the Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association — the historic neighborhood our cottage belongs to — bravely moved ahead with their annual red white and blue children’s parade.
The entire neighborhood turned out to support the marching munchkins and their sidekicks, including an enthusiastic brass band and several patriotic pups.
Some of the costumes seriously impressed me — tell me these kiddos aren’t future stars of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade! Nice work, Martha’s Vineyard families.
Though our outfits were thrown together rather than painstakingly planned, I’d like to think we didn’t have too shabby a showing. In fact, my Statue of Liberty crown, a remnant from a costume of Halloweens past, basically made me the envy of every five year old girl on that island.
The parade’s timing was impeccable. The rain started not long after, and when it did, it was a downpour. While I was still devastated by the news from the prior evening that both the neighborhood block party and the island fireworks were postponed due to weather until after I’d leave the island, at least I knew the decision was justified. (Did that stop me from crying in my mom’s arms like a little girl who just found out she wasn’t getting a pony for her birthday? No, it did not. I waited six years and planned my European summer around this, I wanted fireworks damnit!)
Thankfully, this family had a rainy day contingency plan. Cupcake wars.
During our annual visits to the Vineyard throughout my childhood, my family engaged in extremely competitive, creativity-and-sugar fueled cupcake decorating contests. They were so epic they inspired a local artist’s series of cupcake paintings, a full decade or two before cupcakes were the new black (and before Pinterest, too!) I only wish I was in Albany to go through the old family albums and scan a few of our more fiercely fought years. But for now, I’ll just have to regale you with the 2014 edition…
It was the perfect afternoon activity with equal doses of ruthlessness, innovation, and cursing the fact that the rain was preventing us from running down the road to buy [insert obscure random but necessary item here]. While first time participants Kirsten, Oliver, and Miller kindly humored us, it was clear that my mom, sister, and I were the ones possessed by the need to create elaborately decorated baked goods.
After we finished, we invited the neighbors over to judge with an intricate voting system of placing goldfish in front of their favorite cupcakes. I’m not going to tell you who won, because I’m curious to hear what you all think!
My entries were, not surprisingly, nautical by nature.
My mom, still enamored with the island she can now call home, went with a detailed (and battery powered!) Vineyard theme.
My sister leaned patriotic in honor of the day we were celebrating.
Oliver, bless him, struggled to understand the concept of a decorating only baking contest and kept trying to incorporate flavors like bacon and chili pepper. Finally he succumbed to our pressure and made a pig face. A for effort, Ollie.
Kirsten showed her colors as an elementary teacher with her adorable family-friendly entry.
Miller made an impressive show of island-inspired engineering, constructing a tentacled jellyfish and most impressively, a Jaws-cake. He earned a serious slow clap from me for the Jaws nod (the movie was set and filmed on Martha’s Vineyard!)
Inspired by Miller’s creation, we decided our evening activity would be a Jaws-athon. But it wasn’t quite time to curl up on the couch yet. No! There were backgammon tournaments to be played (or, as Olivia coined it, the Baackgammon Invitational), yoga poses to be adjusted (Kirsten is a newly certified instructor — cousin power!), puzzles to be puzzled, and patriotic cookie cakes to be devoured.
With all that excitement, it was no wonder the evening ended like it did — a three cousin pileup, parked in front of Jaws 2.
While I was admittedly pretty bummed about the damper the weather put on our July Fourth plans, it turned out to be a pretty perfect day. The more I travel, the more I appreciate the time I have with my family and in familiar places. As I flew away from the island the next afternoon on my way to my next international adventure, I knew that I couldn’t have asked for a better goodbye to the good ‘ol USA, and all my wonderful people in it.
Till next time, Martha’s Vineyard… (and America!) US readers, what did you do for the Fourth of July?