In a way, this story begins on July 4, 2000. That's the summer one of our children had just moved to the hinterlands of New England -- actually, Boston -- and I was pining over the separation. I was also a bit uneasy about the unknowns of a big, eastern city and a child (albeit adult child) who was settling there alone. Graduate school was a couple of months away and, well, I felt helpless.
That Independence Day evening I turned on the television and we -- Cathy and I -- sat down to watch the big, 4th of July Gala with the Boston Pops from the bandshell on the banks of the Charles River. Funny, but every time I think about the beautiful trails along that river, I start mentally singing, "Down by the river; down by the banks of the River Charles...Well I love that dirty water; Oh, Boston, you're my home!" But that's another story.
Anyway, Cathy and I were sitting there, watching the Pops play their patriotic songs when I turned to her. "I want to be there next year and watch that concert in person," I said wistfully.
Sure enough, after lots of planning and saving, we gathered with all three of our children, spouses, some friends and Cathy's parents in Boston on July 4th 2001. Someone went early in the day to secure us a spot with good views of the bandshell. The concert is free and people show up with all sorts of shade structures to mark their territory for the evening concert.
That year was very warm on the 4th and most of us didn't even get to town until that afternoon. Combine the heat, the excitement, the travel (5 of us crowded into a small suite in Providence the night before and slept lightly, at best) fatigue and we were exhausted by the time the concert started.
The big-name guests that year were part of a funny memory. Being the middle generation supposedly left us to explain some things that the older and younger ones didn't know. One of our daughters: "Who's Debbie Reynolds?" Cathy's parents: "Who's Cyndi Lauper?" Our son, who knew about both stars, was far more impressed when he looked up in the afternoon and noticed Penn Jillette of "Penn and Teller" fame standing a few yards away. Me: "Who's Penn and Teller?"
I wrote this on Saturday afternoon. Not sure what the evening holds, but I may watch a bit of the Pops on TV this evening. If not, I'll just remember with a smile.
"Well, I love that dirty water..."