For the past few years, I’d spent my Fourth of July imbibing with my friends at the lake or the other lake or at a house on the beach. This year, I kept it local because a handful of my family and loved ones came to visit us in Ojai and partake in the patriotic festivities, and boy was it a good time!
You can’t help but love Ojai’s Fourth of July parade. The city shuts down Ojai Ave. (the main street of Ojai) as the procession walks/galavants/parades from one end of town to the other, a whopping distance of nearly two miles. The parade, per usual, was nothing short of priceless. A true slice of “small town” Americana. Following the opening procession of motorcycle cops, came the really old cars, farm tractors, members of the local Corvette club, the Ojai youth girl’s softball team, local Corvairs, karate groups kicking boards, more really old cars, floats carrying small peace-based organizations, and a handful of decorated cultural groups on horseback. And yes, there was a three plane flyover.
Our family normally sets up shop at the end of the route, in front of Westridge Market (I actually drove down the night before and left the truck in the parking lot. We had arranged this in advance). For most residents, however, it isn’t always that simple. Starting in the last week of June, small lines of plastic chairs start popping up, chained to street signs in the pre-emptive land grab for watching the parade. While I do appreciate the fervor for the parade, I think the rows of plastic chairs in June make the town look shabby, especially in a town that requires all businesses have wooden signs in order to maintain the “aesthetic” of the town. Would it really be so bad if you had to wait until July 1 to put your chairs out? Nevertheless, downtown Ojai on the Fourth of July is the best.
My aunt Diana, Hannah Rose & James and their two children, my brother Brian & Katie and their two children (my niece and nephew!), new friends Ryan & Lauren and their two children, my parents and their child (me), all celebrating freedom the good ole’ fashioned way… by the pool. My mom had gone all out and decorated with American flags, red white and blue plates, the whole shebang for Uncle Sam. There was dancing, grilling of meat, microbrewed beers, belly flops, horseshoes and pool basketball. All things that make America truly great.
I believe the idea of “family” is, perhaps, more important than the concept of family based on genetics. We all know people who are estranged from the people they share genetic coding with, just as we all know friends who are close enough to be siblings but aren’t related in any way. Your family is your tribe and your support system, whether you’re besties or not. To say your family is an “obligation” slightly belittles the bond, but having a “family,” regardless of DNA, is essential to leading a happy and successful life.
It’s totally worth it.