The Fourth

Originally Published 07/04/2011 07:38:37 AM


Photo Source: Jessica Beebe

“Jesus, will you just find a station and leave it there?!?” Dean chuckled at Annie as she turned the dial on their transistor. The signal went from buzzing static to squealing to fuzzy talk to clear music as Annie tried to find a popular station and Dean stuck a finger in his ear. They were poolside on July 2nd, on the road and ready to enjoy a long vacation weekend.

“Yeah, yeah, just let me find something good first!” Annie had the Zenith facing them on the marbled plastic table. She was looking for something to get her into the mood for the beach, like Connie Francis or Bobby Darin, but she was only finding nothing. Eventually she gave up and snapped off the set.

They had arrived at the hotel for the weekend of the 4th on Tuckers Beach, on Marblehead, and swimming, sunning, fireworks and a real New England clam bake. After checking in they immediately headed for the pool. The shade of the umbrellas, the splash of the water, the smell of suntan lotion and the feeling of being away at the beach melded into an intoxicating tonic of relaxation and excitement. Annie, freed from her quest to find a radio station, lay back and felt herself almost melting into her lounger, floating away on clouds of tranquility.

Dean reached into the cooler for another Narragansett, popped the top with a can opener, lit a smoke, exhaled through his nostrils and adjusted his Ray-Bans. He was really looking forward to the 4th and a reunion with Colin, his fellow Harvard Class of ’59 alum, and meeting his wife Claire at the clam bake. Both had gone far in only three years: Colin as a rising star at a prestigious D.C. law firm; Dean in New York as a policy director for Mayor Wagner. They were young, successful and ready to change the world.

Dean and Annie took their time lounging at the pool, enjoying the absence of urgency, deadlines, commitments and schedules and ever aware that the beach was close at hand. As the day lengthened, the call of the surf got louder and more urgent.

There was a quality of light unique to the North Shore of Massachusetts, a tawny brilliance at late afternoon that gave the sand, the surf, the clapboard siding of the houses and the sails of the ships in the harbor a soft glow. When that time arrived they set out for their first look at the beach. Dean and Annie stood at the edge of the water, holding each other close, the waves lapping at their toes, silently taking in the sun, the salt air, the moment, knowing it was just the start of the weekend but wishing they could freeze time and have that moment be the rest of their lives. The stayed at the edge of the surf and the light continued to fade and the day was done.

Colin and Claire arrived late on the 3rd, and the handshakes and backslaps went on for a long time. They had a lovely dinner in town, and called it a night.

The 4th dawned hot and brilliantly clear. Assignments were made for clam bake duties: Annie and Claire would gather seaweed while Colin and Dean built the fire pit and lit the fire. They loaded in pots of steamer clams, mussels and lobster and let it cook for hours while they swam and played volleyball on the beach all day.

That night they spread a blanket out on the beach and feasted on steamed seafood, linguica and potatoes, corn on the cob, bottles of wine and fresh blueberry cobbler. They lit sparklers and stayed out on the beach for the Marblehead fireworks. And off in the distance the great Boston fireworks show on the Esplanade lit up the sky with bursts of hazy reds, whites and blues.

There were many toasts and laughs and new friends became old friends immediately and the night held the hope of their times and their futures together seemed as limitless as the Atlantic at their side and the bursts of patriotic light in the sky. It was the first July 4th of the rest of their lives.

Annie woke as their flight descended into Idlewild and caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty out in the distant harbor. She thought of the night before and the glow of the afternoon sun and standing on the beach with Dean and Lady Liberty and this great country, almost 200 years old now, and thought of how fortunate she was to have this weekend and these friends and limitless hope. The weekend was over, but the best July 4th weekend of their lives would resonate for the rest of their lives.


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