By Rita Watson
Special to The Journal Posted Jul. 7, 2016 @ 9:30 pm
Summer rituals and fireworks always take my breath away. Growing up Italian, we loved having any excuse for a celebration.
One of my favorite times was gathering on the lawn at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on the water to watch the fireworks. Then the next day we strolled along the boardwalk to a nearby amusement park where we indulged in frozen custard and rides on the flying horses. But Grandma always warned us, “Stay away from the mechanical fortune teller in the glass booth. That woman is trouble.”
Although the amusement park was just several blocks away, Grandma did not like strangers and crowds. She was even more cautious on the Fourth of July weekend when she saw cars maneuvering the narrow road in front of the house.
“They are not from around here,” she would say.
For that reason, she would invite family, friends and neighbors to sit on the large wrap-around porch or the lawn to view the amusement park’s blossoming array of colors under the safety of her watchful eyes.
During the fireworks display, she would bring out her trays of biscotti and pass them around as if she was serving guests at a wedding. And after the finale of booming sounds, either Grandpa or my father led the singing of “Happy Birthday.”
Every year my father would say, “Can you believe that all these people came here for you?” My family would shower me with presents and I was led to believe that the fireworks were a gift from the neighbors.
The next day, despite Grandma’s misgivings, we would head to the amusement park very early in the day. From the time I was a baby, my mother and aunts would take me for a boardwalk adventure.
Grandma said one day, “Much as that place gives me the woollies, your mother looked forward to the frozen custard stand. Papa knew the owner, and when he saw you and my girls, he would open early for you. I knew they went there because you always came home with ice cream all over you.”
What I also loved about that summer ritual was the ride on the flying horses. When my father caught the brass ring, before the music started, the operator would walk along the horses and tell everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” just for me.
In terms of happy memories, Grandma often reminded me of my favorite horse, a white stallion who I named Posies, because she had so many pretty flowers around her.
Whenever we returned from that park, Grandma would say, “I’ll bet Posies was happy to see you. Flying horses are magical. They will always remember you and they will always give you a smile.”
— Rita Esposito Watson — www.ritawatson.com — is a Journal columnist writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”
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