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A 4th of July Tradition

  • Wake up early - 7 am

  • Make up my bed

  • Help Dad clean the grill and pick up any dog poop in the backyard

  • Run across the street to the local grocery store for any last-minute items

  • Make barbecue sauce with Dad

  • Grill, eat nibble meat, rinse, and repeat - all day

  • Fireworks at Navy Pier

This was the schedule almost every 4th of July growing up. My favorite part of the day was making the barbecue sauce and testing it out on everything Dad put on the grill. We would always season our meat a day or two in advance. We had barbecue for dinner, but we also had barbecue that we ate all day long. Dad called it “nibble meat.” I would eat so much nibble meat that I didn’t care for dinner. Oh, there were sides – corn on the cob, potato salad, baked beans – but the star of the show was the barbecue, alongside the secret sauce.

Not many in the household knew the secret recipe; they just saw the many jars of Open Pit on the countertop. Dad and I would get in the kitchen – Open Pit was the base of the sauce, but we added a ton of seasonings, spices, and a touch of sweetness. When we were finished, it was certainly no longer Open Pit. I still don’t know why he never bottled that sauce up and sold it. It was perfection. I wouldn’t eat barbecue without his sauce and haven’t indulged since growing up.

The neighbors would make their way into our backyard, stopping in to say their “hellos” as we sat in the lawn chairs, waiting for the ribs to fall off the bone.

With full bellies, we would all squeeze ourselves into the car around 8:30 pm to make our way towards Navy Pier. Did you or your parents ever own the car with the armrest that lifted? That little spot, the very tiny spot, was where I sat when all of my siblings piled into the car.

At Navy Pier, I would lay on the windshield, covering my ears and looking up to the sky, enjoying the show. I loved fireworks but never enjoyed the noise. Dad would just look over at me and smile as the grand finale went on for what felt like an eternity. Then we would pile ourselves back in the car, taking the scenic route down Lake Shore Drive home. Mom didn’t normally join us on the ride; she was a homebody. We would get to the house, and Dad would carry us in, one by one, sound asleep.

Every 4th of July.

Do you have plans? We would love to hear about how you plan to enjoy the day.


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