I just love everything about the Fourth of July, it’s such a HAPPY holiday! The whole point is to love and celebrate America. And we do that best by loving God, country, and gathering our families around. It’s a time to enjoy barbecuing, appreciate our unprecedented freedom, fly Old Glory and swath ourselves and our homes in red, white and blue. And I love all my family’s great traditions and memories from past years. If I had to identify one single favorite memory, I guess it would be the Jello. More specifically, the red, white and blue Jello Flag cake I made with my grandmother for years, and that I now make with my kids.
My grandmother had a big beautiful Victorian home in the village of Cold Spring. Talk about all American. This was before everyone from NYC discovered Cold Spring and the only ones who hiked Breakneck mountain were billygoats. The village of Cold Spring had (still has) a little gazebo where there would be a band in straw hats playing patriotic songs. Families would bring down picnics and camp out all day on the Hudson River, fishing, barbecuing and enjoying the live music.
The absolute best Fourth of July ever was 1976, I was eleven years old and it was our nation’s Bicentennial. That was the year the historic Tall Ships, replicas of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, sailed up the Hudson River from NYC. It was so incredibly thrilling to see the tall ships after hearing about them from months, and then they actually docked in town. I didn’t think that life could get any better. And then I remembered,
We still had the Jello Flag Cake to eat It was the first year that Nellen (my grandmother) had let me take the lead on making the Flag cake. She had the recipe memorized and she sat on the kitchen stool and told me what do to. It is made of red and blue jello, Sara Lee pound cake slices, cool whip, strawberries and blueberries. We had made it the night before and carefully packed it in cardboard, waxed paper and a portable ice chest (now known as a “cooler”). And it was absolutely perfect. As the sky turned to dusk, my brother and I got our jars out to chase fireflies (we always let them go after a few minutes). Then my parents got out the folding lawn chairs from Montgomery Ward and we settled in to listen to the band play Philip Sousa and patriotic tunes. We were pretty sleepy but we woke up quickly when the fireworks went off. Ooooo. Ahhhh.
Looking back, it has always been these simple pleasures that have been the absolute best and the most memorable. We now have our own tradition with our kids. While Newburgh doesn’t have a small town gazebo or a party on the green, there are plenty of area fireworks to watch. However, we find that we prefer to just be home with family and friends to barbecue. One thing we do like to do is get out on a boat -- this year, it is a sailboat -- and watch the fireworks on the Hudson River from the boat. It’s the best seat in the house. And right after that, we get out our new fangled “ice chest” and dig into my kids’ favorite -- the Jello Flag cake.
Some 240 years ago, regular folks just like us laid down their lives and fought and suffered so that the “colonies” could have independence from an unjust King. As a matter of fact, George Washington spent a good deal of the latter part of the war right here in Newburgh, and you can (and should) visit Washington’s headquarters often. I know I do.
There’s no wrong way to celebrate the Fourth of July. Love God, your country and your family. And if you want to make yourself something nice, I highly recommended a jello flag cake -- Mrs. Lo