The 4th of July is a very important date to my family for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, we celebrate the founding of our country which has given our family generations of opportunity and success. We celebrate those ancestors in our family that fought to secure that freedom we all cherish and occasionally take for granted.
Having traveled a fair bit of the world, Mary Lou and I are aware how special the United States of America really is by comparison. We have never visited any country we would rather call home. We are proud to be Americans. Even the challenging times we live in do not diminish the prospects our country affords us.
Our family also loves the 4th of July at Compass Lake. It is a tradition going back at least a century. Parts of that tradition ebbed and flowed over the years, but for the past 30 years, it has been where we have celebrated the 4th with our children and grandchildren. That was until the joint scourges of Hurricane Michael and the pandemic hit.
This Independence Day celebration of 2021 was the first we have been able to enjoy with our children, grandchildren, and my mother since 2018. It was an incredible few days; a wish come true in many ways. Hugs were unrestrained. Masks were nowhere to be found.
The traditions put on hold were back in full force. Cold watermelon cut on the dock. Homemade ice cream with a choice of toppings. Babyback ribs cooked until they fell off the bone. Naps taken on the hammocks on the dock (two power naps were mine).
Old stories were back in full force. My girls recounted their childhood days at Compass Lake during the Summer. So did Mary Lou and I. So did Grandmama Jobie. Stories of two sets of my own great-grandparents who first came to the lake always are part of the narrative.
Three of my grandchildren tubed until they could barely pull themselves out of the water. They laughed as they tried to push each other off the tube. They tried to do tricks together. They played games for hours jumping off the dock or high dive. A competitive group they are but they are building cousin memories that will last forever.
My fourth grandchild is a bit young for a tube. At the age of two, I was more than satisfied that he clearly says my name, Granddaddy, when he sees me. His smile and mischievous nature are a delight. He repeatedly crawled up in my lap which is a joy beyond description.
This holiday was not just about grandchildren, as magnificent as they might be. This was the first time in two years that we have had our two daughters together. We caught up on the dock, the front porch, the boat, and on noodles just floating in the water. Our sons-in-law were also present, playing with the children, helping with the chores, and making the family vacation easier. What a blessing they are.
At some point, the four generations were all seated at the table in animated conversation and my wife, with a glisten in her eye, said “This is all I have wanted. Just for us all to be together fills my heart”. It was her wish being granted, but we all were blessed by the time together.
I have always said that Compass Lake was the glue that held our family together over generations. Today, my niece, Addison Ponder Fields, dropped by on the way back from her own family trip to the beach. She also has a long history here.
Thursday, Vassar, a first cousin from Portland, will arrive to enjoy the lake and visit my mother. Saturday, Joe, another first cousin from Chicago, will arrive for the same reason. Cold spring water, ribs, ice cream and family time. It is always the same through the years.
Tonight, I am sitting on the dock alone with nothing but the sounds of the frogs and crickets. My family is asleep, and I am content.
I will be forever grateful that my family lives in a country where we can enjoy times like these past few days. Freedom comes in many different forms. The 4th of July is a time to celebrate what America means to us. This particular 4th is a memory I will cherish forever.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org