My husband, John T, just came home with a pork butt the size of a hippopotamus, so now we have to have a 4th of July event around the smoker. It’s funny because neither John T nor I like this holiday. John T says it feels “forced.” I don’t like this holiday because it makes me feel lonely.

When I was a little girl, we used to have fourth-of-July family reunions just outside of Selma, Alabama, at a place called “Billy’s Pool.” The man-made pond was on a deeply wooded patch of land called “Billy Goat’s Gruff,” and the old folks who weren’t in wheel chairs circled the pool in metal fold-out lawn chairs. The kids floated across the pond on inner tubes or swung into the water from the tree-branch rope. Of course, there were picnic tables piled with fried chicken, potato salads, hams, watermelons, lemon cookies, and sweating Jell-O molds. I loved this sunny place, and I loved the people, the family on my father’s side.

This family reunion tradition ended many, many years ago because most of the people passed away–including my stern grandmother, my pretty second cousin named Aimee, all the great aunts and uncles, and my sweet father.

Perhaps I’ll try to be more enthusiastic this 4th. Yes, folks are gone, but I have new people to share the holiday with. And, of course, I can’t be sad as I watch my son stand by his father’s side as he tends the mammoth barbecue. As I watch them, I’ll think of my own daddy and how proud I am of him, a former Navy Captain. I’ll bake a pound cake for our fresh berries and prepare deviled eggs. We may even light our favorite sparklers—pink, yellow, blue, and gold Morning Glories and watch the fire fountains dazzle up our little holiday evening that we’ll spend with a few nearby family members, a scattering of friends, and a ton of meat.

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