Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A very American weekend


This time last year on Memorial Day weekend, we were househunting on Long Island and stumbling jet-lagged around Brooklyn and Manhattan. We knew nobody here and, awash with forms to fill in, lines to queue in and cheques to write, the US seemed fairly threatening and intimidating.
What a difference a year makes.
This year we celebrated the official start of summer in style. On Saturday night, we went to a fireworks display at a local beach park. Thousands of families gathered at dusk on the sands with picnic baskets, rugs, deckchairs and beach toys, waiting for darkness to fall and the display to begin. We arrived late, around 7.30, having been to a lunch party in Queens during the day, but to our relief found that despite the huge throng of people it was still possible to park (now I begin to appreciate the massiveness of American parking lots). We met our neighbours, and sat and chatted on the beach eating and drinking as the sun went down, hoping the distant squally clouds and rumbles of thunder over Connecticut wouldn't reach Long Island before 9pm. A few drops of rain fell, but the storm held off and it was pleasantly warm.
As the first fireworks went off in the harbour, a woman behind us exlaimed 'Summer's here!" And, sitting there watching the sky light up with my feet in the sand, I could not have imagined a better place to be. (My delight at the evening was only slightly marred by my attempt at breaking an airconditioning unit by mistake when we got home as I enthusiastically threw open a window - a ridiculously shameful episode to be related another time...).
Yesterday was Memorial Day itself (the remembrance is of troops killed from the Civil War onwards). We marched in our very first parade through the town, in support of the community centre we belong to. The Littleboys were given US flags to wave and we marched the length of Main Street to the harbour (about a mile) following lines of cheerleaders, scouts, military servicemen, policemen and masonic lodges. Brass bands and bagpipes played, and the whole thing ended with a procession that seemed to involve every fire truck in town (Lord knows what would have happened if there had been an actual fire somewhere), plus the town's fire marshal decked out in most splendid uniform and a huge white hat, waving from a car like the Queen. (Firefighters are like gods here - no wonder, when every summer evening seems to prompt a succession of sirens racing to the rescue of another clapboard house that has caught fire). The street was lined with spectators who had come out to sit in deckchairs and cheer everyone on, basking in the beautiful summery heat.
There is nothing like this in England, and if you'd asked me a year ago, I probably would have been quite cynical about American parading and flag-waving. But it seemed entirely appropriate, and, I have to say, was great fun. Americans know how to celebrate in style.
So, very different from a year ago. We are no longer the newbies - although we were still wide-eyed enough to take touristy photos of the parade. This summer we will have our essential equipment at the ready - new barbecue, ice box, picnic rug - and, hopefully, not every weekend will necessitate a visit to Bed, Bath and Beyond. We won't rush off to the beach at every peep of sunshine, like heat-seeking British missiles; I've bought our mosquito coils for evening meals outdoors; the boys will be at summer camp instead of hanging around the playground with me. Bring it on......

13 comments:

Fourdownmumtogo said...

Sounds like you are really going native. I know how much you wanted to move abroad, and I am so glad that it has lived up to your expectations. Belated, Happy Memorial Day.

Home Office Mum said...

sounds fab - as always. Sigh

Anonymous said...

Blanket. Picnic blanket. ^.^

~Conuly

deer baby said...

Just the glimpse of a porch (I think I can see one and some clapperboarding)and the words 'Long Island' make me wish I was there! I don't know why - I'm not American - but it makes me think I'm in a film or something. Sounds like a great day and even if for a sombre cause, they sure know how to celebrate. Lovely post.

Expat mum said...

In a very Bah Humbug sort of way, after all this time here I still haven't embraced the American parade thing. I practically run in the other direction!

Pants With Names said...

Summer Camp? Oh Bring that on!

TheMadHouse said...

Sounds great, go on you going native

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Ahh, you're going all American now! Glad to hear you really starting to feel more settled. I remember it took me awhile to reach that point here but it was a good feeling when it came.

Damn those bulky, horrid air conditioning units!

Almost American said...

You marched in the parade? Wow - after 25 years here, I never have! DH and DS did this year - and DS complained bitterly that he missed out on the candy being thrown at the spectators because he was carrying the banner for his Cub Scout troop! I didn't even bother taking photos this year, tho I did last year.

nappy valley girl said...

Fourdownmumtogo - yes, definitely went native this weekend. But not totally there - don't know words of pledging allegiance to the flag, which LB1 had to fill in for homework!

HOM - so when are you coming?

Conuly - Ah yes. Are rugs just for the house? You see, I still have a lot to learn...

Deerbaby - there is something very appealing about porches and clapboard. No doubt the Americans would say the same about beams and bay windows!

ExpatMum - well, I was persuaded to it by a group I am involved in, but I have to say it was fun.

PantswithNames - yes, definitely. They will be out of the house doing fun thing every morning for 3 hours. Hurrah!

TheMadHouse - well, you've gotta do these things sometimes....

Tanya - yes, the aircon units are pretty annoying. But essential, as we've found over the last few days....

AlmostAmerican - they threw candy? That didn't happen in ours. Over to look at your pics now.

Metropolitan Mum said...

I am impressed by your ability to adapt. Summer is here, too. Since yesterday. And a lot of the British ladies have stripped down to boob tubes and hot pants. I am wondering if I'll ever embrace this culture that much...

nappy valley girl said...

Met Mum - I'm so sorry to hear the Brits are letting the side down. Boob tubes and hot pants, what a truly horrific combination.....

conuly said...

"But not totally there - don't know words of pledging allegiance to the flag, which LB1 had to fill in for homework!"

Give it time. Pretty soon you'll be able to recite it in your sleep if somebody gives you the right "word tune".

Every damn assembly. I haven't said the thing since the 6th grade (when I up and realized I didn't actually have to), and it only took a few years to fall out of the groove of quietly staying seated while it's being said. Now I have to get back *into* that groove, with my nieces. (One day I might use that as my excuse for never showing up for the monthly awards ceremony, come to think.)