Small-town Fourth of July

We were home for the fourth. It felt nice. For the past two years we’ve been in my hometown of St. Petersburg, for funerals for my dad, two years ago, and my sister, last year. Last year we watched the fireworks from the beach, with my brothers and sister Patti and their families. It was bittersweet. This year we just wanted to be home. And we were. We started the day with our neighborhood parade, which we watched from my friend Susie’s front-yard. Susie set out plates of bagels and jams and fresh fruits. Dave, her husband, set up the bar with bloody marys and breakfast beer–what a way to start the day. Then we all sat out in folding chairs to watch the passing parade, joined by dozens of neighbors. Our town’s celebration is deliberately small-scale and corny. The kid’s swim team rode by on their bikes. A community supper club–they call themselves “the dinner conspiracy” marched by in chef’s hats, banging pot lids with wooden spoons. Dads pushed babies in strollers decked out in bunting. One group decorated a boat as a float decorated as a boat. Frail-looking World War II vets rode by in cars sponsored the the American Legion and VFW. There was an Uncle Sam on a unicycle, and a Kazoo Band which serenaded us with SHE’S A GRAND OLD FLAG, and my friend Mike and Jinxy’s vintage red convertible–Big Red, carried the city commissioners, driven by Mike, who got elected to the city commission earlier this year. We greeted Mike with all the dignity the office demands–by pelting him with water balloons and a Super Soaker fired from what our friend Jack called “the grassy knoll.” Then we went home and started preparing for the evening’s events. My sister-in-law Jeanne and I fried a mess of chicken. We started doing this years ago, when my mother was still living, under her watchful supervision. Jeanne’s version of fried chicken is–truthfully–even better than Mom’s. She marinades the chicken overnight in buttermilk spiked with Texas Pete hot sauce. Then we drain it and bread in a mixture of flour, seasonings, bread crumbs and Japanese Panko crumbs. We fry it for 14 minutes in hot peanut oil–Jeanne swears it gives a lighter taste, drain on paper towels, then leave in the oven, set at 250–until time for the covered dish supper. I also made a big bowl of my grandmother’s potato salad, devilled eggs, and a pan of Trailer Trash. Trailer Trash? This is a recipe cribbed from The Sweet Potato Queen’s cookbook. No bake, all fake. Delish!. You take a box of 12 ice cream sammiches. Don’t forget to unwrap. Place in bottom of a 9×12 foil pan. Drizzle over chocolate ice cream topping and caramel ice cream topping. Slather on a bunch of Cool Whip. Drizzle over more of the toppings. Garnish with a bag of Heath Bar chocolate-toffee bits. Cover with foil and stick in the freezer til supper. Mmm. Aunt Bea! We always have a covered dish supper at our house, and then go down to the lake to watch the fireworks. We spread out quilts on a neighbor’s lawn to watch. It was good to be home again.