On Independence Day no-one in Glenside leaves town. Everyone’s home, it seems, or is on the way. Grown children, their own kids in tow, former neighbors—all back for the parade, the family barbecue, the fireworks—and the hundred other moments that shape the day. Kids and their parents lining up for races and bike-judging and hot dogs at Renninger, the mid-morning sun already high in the sky. The Sunday hush settling over town as sawhorses begin to block intersections up and down Easton Road. Folding chairs planted like flags, each claiming a few square feet of O’Neill’s sidewalk or St. Luke’s lawn. The red-and-white striped tees, the navy skirts, the novelty hats.
And then the parade. Motorcycles cruising through figure-8s. Cassidy dancers skip-stepping from routine to routine under the eyes of teachers who themselves marched just a few years before. Ballplayers and blue-ribboned winners of the three-legged race and the women’s over-30 fifty-yard dash. Blocks of empty space between one company of fire engines and the next. District judges perched waving on the back seats of vintage Chevy convertibles. Old neighbors clustered on corners, together again, Igloos half empty, begging first responders for another blast from the siren. The mad scramble underfoot for candy tossed from floats. Flags. Uncle Sam tottering through town on stilts, fragile and enduring as liberty itself. Vietnam and Desert Storm vets in fatigues. The Highland Watch—a bass drummer beating time, two pipers, and the thin, wild notes of “Scotland the Brave” piercing the yellow afternoon light. And the heat—enough sometimes to soften the macadam on Easton Road and ripple the houses and trees in the distance.
But this day isn’t just the parade or the frieze of onlookers lining the avenue. It’s houses baking quietly in the sun, coolers filled with Bud or Miller Lite, grills primed with charcoal, chicken marinating in the fridge alongside buckets of potato salad, porches hung with bunting and flags and littered with bikes trailing red-white-and-blue streamers. Cedar picnic tables mottled in the shade of backyard maples.
Glenside on the 4th of July. There’s nothing like it.