Copy of Ethan Shorey Column 11-24_0

A year without many Fourth of July festivities in 2020 caused many people, like myself, to realize just how much they took them for granted, so it would come as little surprise that people would be ready to party in 2021.

But what did surprise me a bit was that even a crummy weather weekend, with the best day Monday barely climbing into the 70s, did little to dampen the enthusiasm, with people turning out in droves for celebrations all over the area. Even the beach cams were showing crowds on Monday as thousands said they weren’t about to be deterred from their holiday fun.

Rhode Island’s standout vaccine rate of nearly 77 percent had Gov. Dan McKee, who was somehow able to make appearances at two major morning parades at opposite ends of the state on Monday, crowing. This Fourth of July, minus the weather, was exactly what we’d been told was possible for months as we heard frequent parallels drawn between the freedom it would bring and the freedom traditionally celebrated in the holiday.

I loved scrolling social media to see a grandmother getting to hold her 18-month-old grandson for the first time at what she described as a “magical” backyard party. That was one of so many extended families who were able to get out and make real Fourth of July memories for the first time in two years.

Sure, there was plenty of complaining about incessant amateur fireworks going off at all hours or traffic snarls caused by people who seemed to forget how to get from point A to B during the pandemic, much of it justified, by the way, but it was wonderful to see so many people simply basking in the joy of being together again.

I’ve always been someone who’s appreciated little things, and living through the pandemic enhanced that, I think. Why am I sometimes so quick to look for something to complain about in a situation instead of noticing the small and amazing moment that just happened right in front of me? Why focus all attention on the short-term obstacles instead of the final result? Why not remind myself sometimes that little things are often the best things, even if they arrive under less than ideal circumstances?

Being a father now, it helps me sometimes to look at life through my children’s eyes, and those eyes were as big as saucers this Fourth of July. There were so many hugs and exclamations of thank you from these little people who haven’t learned yet that it’s cool to complain about wonderful experiences.

Pandemics aren’t supposed to be the time when you make great friends, the kind that appreciate you even in the ugly moments and can talk about all sorts of things without judging, but we were so thankful to spend this Fourth with just those kind of people. There was no pressure to get somewhere or fear about a dangerous virus, just time spent enjoying each other’s company, appreciating the little things like successfully starting a fire with wet logs, eating holiday-themed nachos that seemed like some of the best I’ve ever tasted despite my wife’s addition of black olives, or listening as Alexa delivered patriotic songs from childhood.

So much of summer is still left, and I plan to keep making up for lost time. I’m going to love my trips to local restaurants and breweries, the gatherings with family and friends, the late afternoon beach trips, all the little moments that make this season in Rhode Island so special. Fourth of July was just the start.

- Shorey is the editor of The Valley Breeze Newspapers.

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