Happy 4th of July!!
Today Mom would have celebrated her 66th birthday. In her honor I wanted to just tell you a story or two about birthdays past. So without further adieu…
As an adult Cathy loved having her birthday on the 4th of July. Every year it was like national “celebrate Cathy” day—friends & family, warm sunshine, good food, and fireworks. What more could a girl want?
As a younger child I remember Mom working her tail off to prepare for the Butte to Butte. She would train for a few months slowly bettering her time. Wild Willy would watch as she she’d don her short, silky shorts (product of the 80s) and tank top. He’d watch day after day as she’d lace up her New Balance shoes, and finally the night before the race he’d decide he too was going to run. I’d go stand at the finish line with Gord or Fran to cheer the incoming runners over the finish line. Mom was the slow & steady tortoise and Wild Willy was the springy goofy hare. Although he’d always finish first she never complained. She’d just smile and bask in the people and festival-like atmosphere.
Many 4th of July years we spent camping at Cultus Lake. Our annual trips with the Atchisons were usually ten days long— ten days in July and ten days in August. These are my fondest memories growing up. Not watching Cathy and Fran haul boat-loads of stuff back and forth across the lake with multiple kids in tow, but the time we spent lounging on the beach lathering up in coconut oil and reading trash novels, the time we spent playing Pinocle or Kings in the Corner, the time we spent eating red licorice while listening to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. It was also the time we roasted marshmallows over the fire, played Trivial Pursuit with our next door camp neighbors, waterskied till we felt like our arms and legs might fall off. It was a time to watch the stars, chase Ding Malls in the dark of the night down the camp trails (which were really our dads trying to hide in the bushes and scare the dickens out of us) or look for the loudest bullfrog. It was a time to gather and be—to enjoy one the one another and enjoy the environment.
Not every 4th of July brought sunshine to Cultus Lake, however. More than once we dug trenches around out tents to keep the rain out, or packed up wet camping gear while we quickly loaded the car. One year we watched as smoke jumpers were dropped on Cultus Mountain to put out a forest fire started by lightening. Another year we woke up to a 4th of July snow-covered “Brrrr! Let’s get out of here!” kind of a morning. All in all, rain or shine, I think the times spent at Cultus were not only my favorite memories but also Mom’s—especially when celebrating her birthday.
Lastly I’d be remiss to leave out the bit of yin and yang of her birthday—the complementary, non-opposing forces that couldn’t exist without one another. What is that, you ask? Fireworks, of course. While Mom loved oohing and ahhhing over the fireworks displayed over Autzen Stadium, she did not like running for dear life while Wild Willy almost blew someone or something up. Every year there was a near miss disaster. Round little screamers chased us off the street and through the back gate in the backyard. Cherry bombs shook the windows and left holes in the pavement. Bottle rockets didn’t always fly in the direction they were pointed. The tube ones sometime fizzled out just until Willy went up to relight them and then “BANG-O”. He’d jump back, almost lose a limb, and Mom would just shake her head. But the best one came while parked in a field waiting to watch the big ones. Willy drug out his stash and systematically started going through them. He pulled out a bundle of the little whirling dervish screamers. He lit them in an open area, but in true custom form they did not go where he anticipated. They headed straight under a van (or pickup—I can’t remember) filled with people. People started bailing right & left and, if I remember correctly (Fran can verify it), the grass even caught on fire. Needless to say Willy was in the dog-house and was “shunned” by all the surrounding cars.
Finally, on this 4th, I just like to take a minute to remember my mom, her playful spirit, and her sense of adventure. And to remind you: Enjoy your day! Enjoy your family & friends! Have some watermelon & corn on the cob! Wave a little flag in her honor—and be sure NOT to blow off any limbs while celebrating with fireworks!
Happy 4th of July!!