It’s the Fourth of July in northeastern Pennsylvania. Naturally I’m partying with kin in Hilldale. A gang of cousins and I go to nearby Wilkes~Barre to see the historical exhibitions in the Square.
“Northeastern Pa.’s loaded with military history,” Joe and Ron, our Viet Nam veteran cousins, remind us. “Remember,” Ron said. “We have to leave soon to see Queen Esther’s Bloody Rock in Wyoming Borough.”
At the end of our day, we get to go to Jitty Joe’s, in Scranton, for ice cream. That’s all so mundane, even with all the toppings, compared to what we see here.
It’s the Fourth of July weekend in Hilldale, Pennsylvania, and all the local townspeople are having their annual bonfire. My cousins and I have always especially enjoyed it. It’s a nice way for each of us to get out his frustrations and, more importantly, to act stupid in an acceptable context.
My cousins and I have had such an entirely lopsided rapport over the years. The fire is only one representative example of all our odd antics, which, of course, no one else understands. We laugh. We reminisce. We watch strangers burn things. Are we a fun bunch or what?!
All throughout my lifetime I’ve been quite seriously notorious for my having always disliked sports. I’ve never been any good at anything even the least bit athletic either. Each year since I was an infant, my father’s relatives have always gotten together in Hilldale, in northeastern Pennsylvania, for a few days around the Fourth of July. My cousins, many of whom are exceptionally good athletes, usually like to go to a nearby ball diamond in Plains so they can play softball. I don’t even like to bother to show up for the game but sometimes they even cajole me into playing a little. Once, about twenty years ago, they got me to play for a while. Somehow my cousin Elaine, who’s not a good athlete either, though her husband and son are, got nudged into pitching. She’s around fourteen years older than I. I got up to the plate while she was pitching. She threw the ball at me. I not only hit it. I even hit it right into her nose. Of course no one was the least bit happy about my having messed things up so much for her. As if it weren’t bad enough that I’ve never been the least bit of a good athlete anyway, the first time I managed to get anything done it started such big trouble. To this day it’s still quite a conversation piece among my relatives. I’ve always tried to defend my misstep by reminding them that her nose had always been a bit off-kilter up until then anyway and it looks so very much nicer now.
It’s so hard to believe right now, but summer will soon be upon us, and I’m truly looking forward to it. I simply can’t stand cold weather. Although I don’t, so far, have any specific plans, I shall be so happy just basking in the warmth of the sunshine. Ever since I was twelve years old I’ve always lived very close to water. Long Beach is well known for its beaches. I can take a half-mile walk down Lincoln Boulevard each day, and go to the beach. Even if I don’t go into the water, the boardwalk can provide me with quite an amazingly impressive view. In Wyoming I lived very close to the Susquehanna River, and it was very quiet and very enjoyable, with such fine scenery. In Lindenhurst I was right across the street from a few nice canals. They were also known for being so epecially picturesque. Since I’m still fairly new to Long Beach, and quite unfamiliar with it, the summer months will give me quite a nice opportunity to get out and to travel more throughout the city. Although I shall absolutely dread the traffic congestion because of all the people on vacation, it will all be worth it. I was always quite involved with my parishes in Queens, Lindenhurst and the Wyomings so now I can take advantage of the warm weather out here to start getting really busy with St. Mary of the Isle too. Maybe I shall go to northeastern Pennsylvania to to see my father’s relatives for the long Fourth of July weekend. Perhaps then I can relive our infamous blueberry picking fiasco of yore. I’ve been doing so much walking lately anyway. Out there, especially in the nearby Poconos, I shall be able to do a lot more walking because there are a lot more wide open spaces. Besides all the fattening food and crowds on the Independence Day weekend, the main thing I may have a bit too much of a problem with will be the sunburn. Because I’m a bit pale complected the sun, if I’m not very careful, can take quite a toll on me, mostly if I spend a significant amount of time either in a pool or at a beach. Over the course of the past eight years in the Wyomings I got a chance to meet a lot of people and to make quite a few friends. I can even visit them too. Most certainly I shall have to visit my mother’s relatives. I’ll say hello to Uncle Frankie and Fran, and all of Aunt Lauren’s family. If things really work out well I can even take a few trips to Jackson Heights and Lindenhurst to visit my old stomping grounds. Most importantly of all the weather will be warm. All I really want now is to have as much sunshine as possible. Unfortunately it will be my first summer since my parent’s deaths. I shall have to get used to each set of circumstances, as it comes up, without them. That will be the only seriously sad thing. As much as I dislike change, it’s an ongoing inevitable occurrence. Both good and bad keep happening. Instead of complaining, I can consider my first Long Beach summer as yet another lopsided adventure.
The Fourth of July went so well this year. As always we ended up visiting my father’s relatives in Hilldale for a few days. The weather was perfect for anyone who enjoys the heat. Most of the kin showed up. Mary Anne and Steve, as well as Michael, Sam and Bridget, were here. Unfortunately, though, Erin wasn’t available. My mother still has lots of trouble with her cancer so she couldn’t go. Each of us took turns staying with her. I was especially happy to see Maelene, Joe and most of their family from North Tonawanda, and Vinnie from North Carolina, as well as Larry, Rose & their family from Massapequa. Anthony showed up from Brooklyn too. An inevitable reality of this occasion is the incessant reminiscing. Predictably we all got together & relived our past circumstances, especially the kin’s obnoxious references to all my supposedly bad driving. We also celebrated relevant birthdays and anniversaries. Rich, the Ronald’s son, got me an especially nice poster of Beatle Ringo Starr. Alas there was no softball game but I don’t play anyway. One night several of the cousins went to Friendly’s but I didn’t go. I was too tired. Unfortunately we didn’t go to Jitty Joe’s. Michael and I made sure we got our traditional cigars though. Music, religion and politics, and current events provided much conversation. I spent lots of time in the pool so I made sure I pot on lots of sun screen. The lay Carmelite meetings have been going well lately in Wilkes Barre, at the Little Flower Manor. So have Fr. McKernan’s men’s group meetings at Our Lady of Sorrows. Recently Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church at St. Joseph Marello Parish, on William Street in Pittston had their annual bizarre. I made sure I spent around an hour there each night. It was a very nice time. My mother still needs a lot of medical attention but we’re keeping track of it well. Aunt Lauren, Uncle Frankie and Fran come over fairly frequently and Mary Anne and family come in whenever they can.
The infamous Fourth of July Hilldale feeding frenzy is coming up. I just don’t have the strength or patience to handle it all. I know I shall get even fatter than I, alas, already am. I lose all sense of moderation at times like this. All the cousins have been, for the past couple of weeks, in quite a tither about it. It will be nice to see so many of my cousins get together. I can get along quite well with most of them. An unusually stupid (even for Pa.) thing happened last week. As I was pulling out of the Wyoming Free Library’s parking lot to make a right turn into the turn lane to go home, some simple~minded woman pulled, from Wyoming Avenue, exactly into the lane, of the parking lot, which I was in, flatly refused to yield to my right of way. She had a few kids with her. I’ve always known, for as far back as I can remember, that northeastern Pa. is well known as the home of a bunch of fruitcakes anyway but this was a particularly annoying stunt. She flatly refused to give me the satisfaction of yielding to me. I deliberately refused to let her have her way either at first. She could have very easily turned into the other lane & let me through. After a while I just gave up & let this creep have her way because I came to understand that I was dealing with an especially arrogant character who couldn’t be expected to give in. The way people drive around here is not to be believed & the fact that the police pander to pedestrians doesn’t exactly help much either. Father’s Day is coming up this Sunday. A very happy day is hereby officially wished to all the menfolk who qualify.