Memories of 4th of July and Hampton Beach New Hampshire
The song started playing as soon as my car rounded the bend to Hampton Beach Boulevard. "I'm a cowboy... on a steel horse I ride..." The sound of the acoustic guitar intro to the Bon Jovi song caused an immediate reach for the volume knob. There is something about the ocean and the summer. The sun shines brighter when I am at Hampton Beach. Maybe it's the sun refecting off the water that makes this seem so. There is also the sight of all the people on vacation. Women in their beach wear. Giant sun hats on their heads and of course the sunglasses. Yup... we are here. It's vacation time.
I had never known how much fun it could be to sit on the beach on the 4th of July. Not until my brother told me that he had rented a cottage several years ago and that I should bring my wife and kids and come enjoy a 4th of July on Hampton Beach with him. We packed the Chevy Blazer to the hilt. Coolers with food and beer. Baby bags, beach chairs, suit cases and of course our dog. The dog didn't particularly care for our vacation though. The constant sound of fireworks left her somewhat shaken. She sat next to me on the porch of the cottage looking at me as if to say "What the hell is all that booming and please make it stop".
The cottage was right on the boulevard. It had a huge porch that wrapped around three sides of the house and we would sit out there first thing in the morning and read the paper. Amazing how fast the traffic builds. At 8:00 am there is hardly any traffic. By 11:00 am the boulevard is packed with cars. The sound of the music blaring from many of the cars fills the air. Some of the cars have those booming radios that shake the road. I always thought it would be funny to see some kid sitting there in his car with the booming music, only to have the car vibrate so much that it just fell apart around him.
As the day wore on it was time to hit the beach. Packing all the stuff took some time. Lugging it to the beach. Finding that perfect place in the sand and staking our spot with a huge beach umbrella and a cooler with food and soft drinks. We's see the people sitting there with coolers buried in the sand. Their coolers were full of beer. Gotta keep an eye out on those beach police you know. The wind blowing off the ocean kept us cool as we listened to music or a Red Sox game on the radio. That is actually one of my favorite memories. Listening to Ken Coleman call Red Sox games. So many radios on the beach had the Red Sox game on, it was almost as if giant speakers were set up and the game was broadcast across the entire beach for all to listen to.
As day turned into dusk it was time to head back to the cottage. Where to eat? We knew it was not going to be easy to find a place to have dinner. Fried Clams or lobster? It didn't really matter where we went for dinner. Every restaurant was packed. The waiting line was at least an hour. We were able to find one spot though. It was on the bottom floor. We walked down and there are 3 tables. The waitress looked at us and said "how many?" We answered eleven. There are more coming. We took all the tables. The kids played the juke box and the coin operated pool table while we enjoyed a frozen mudslide and ordered dinner.
"Daddy when will they be shooting off the fireworks?" my 5 year old son wanted to know. That was what he wanted to see. Packing another cooler and a few snacks we lugged some chairs and headed to the beach. As we got to the beach I could see bon fires everywhere. I never knew that bon fires were allowed. Bottle Rockets were shot off every second it seemed. Some of the people even had the larger fire works that are illegal in the state of New Hampshire. Wonder where they get those I thought to myself. The night was cool. The breeze coming off the ocean felt great. The sight of the never ending rockets shooting into the air never stopped. Then we heard that sound. You know the sound, it's the woosh of a large firework. Everyone on the beach turned towards the direction of the sound. OOOOOHHHHHH. It was as if the entire beach let out the sound at once. The huge firework exploding into the night sky over the ocean. The reflection of the moon and the fireworks on the water so beautiful. Does it get any better than this? Surrounded by loved ones, living in the greatest country in the history of the world and celebrating our independence. In my opinion it doesn't get any better.
I have not been able to make it to Hampton on the 4th in a few years now. I still get there. I occassionally visit Millie's Tavern on L Street for a clam plate. Great food at Millie's and I will be visiting again soon I hope.
My brother died several years ago. I still can hear him singing the Bon Jovi song and see him sitting on the beach. His skin all bronzed up and a smile on his face. I miss those days. I can smile as I remember then and know that although the economy has been tough these past few years, we will go back there. We will sit on that beach and watch fireworks and I will bring a CD and crank "on a steel horse I ride, because I'm wanted... Dead or Alive".
Happy 4th America. Celebrate with your friends and family and remember the loved ones that you miss. I may not be on the beach this year. I will be with someone special and we will start some new memories.