Aspen Princess: It was a happy Fourth, after all
“I’m not feeling all that patriotic,” I told Ryan as we discussed our plans for the Fourth of July. “Frankly, I’d rather leave this country than celebrate it.”
He nodded and shrugged in that language of gestures and expressions between married people that doesn’t require words. I took it to mean, “I hear ya” and, “Not much we can do about it except move on.” He’s not big on worrying about things you have no control over, which is why he’s so good for me. In my mind, it’s those things you have no control over that are the most worth worrying about.
I’m also not big on holidays. I resent the pressure to do this or that, to make some big plans that pacify any fear of missing out. I prefer fun that is more spontaneous, unplanned and unexpected. Plus, that’s really the only way to avoid the crowds.
Last year we spent the Fourth of July in Minnesota at a family picnic at the park across the street from Mimi and Grampy’s. Everyone gathered at two long tables under an awning for the better part of six hours just shooting the breeze. Six hours! Uncle Aaron pulled the kids around the park in one of those driving mowers with a wagon trailer attached to it and they ate stuff like deviled eggs and sausage stars and hotdishes. Naturally I made a kale salad and Grampy snuck me a grilled chicken breast like he always does, but the day was about family more than anything.
For the past few years, we’ve been going up to Redstone for the parade and then to Marble for paddleboarding and dinner at Slow Groovin’ BBQ. We love it up there because it still feels quaint and small town and deep in the mountains, far removed from the craziness in Aspen — or so we thought. We tried to stop there for dinner on our way back from Crested Butte last week and it was so mobbed we decided to skip it. It looks like the secret is out. If it was that busy on a random Saturday, we couldn’t imagine what it would look like on the Fourth of July.
Then the texts started flying and the verdict was in: Our friends wanted us in Aspen.
“We should probably take the bus,” I told Ryan, already strategizing. There’s this thing that happens when you move downvalley: The pearly gates, which are located east of the roundabout, slam shut. You are forced to wait in line with the rest of the commoners (at least the ones who didn’t win affordable housing) for the 45 minutes it takes to get into town from the Aspen Business Center.
“Why don’t we bike in?” Ryan suggested.
Eureka! We could pull the babe in the Chariot and that way we could bring everything we need for the day. I liked this idea. Loved this idea, even. I ran upstairs and changed into the red sundress I’d bought at D&E that I wasn’t sure I’d ever have an occasion to wear. I flat ironed my hair and put on mascara for the first time in weeks. I decided I would brave the rainbow platform flip flops I bought back in March but have been afraid to wear because they’re like, 5 inches tall and would for sure land me in the hospital if I were to twist my ankle in them. But today was the day. It was a now-or-never moment.
I threw on a pair of yoga shorts under my dress, tied the skirt in a knot, stuck the flip-flops in the Chariot and put on my bike shoes. Biking in a sundress was as good as going naked. It’s true I had a little wardrobe malfunction as I was bending over to pick up the babe and the poor guy who just happened to pass by and see it nearly rode right off the bike path, either out of shock or horror — hard to say which. Disaster averted, it felt good to have the wind blowing through my skirt and elsewhere.
We pulled up in Aspen around 1 o’clock, not realizing the parade had started at 11, not noon. We somehow missed the fighter planes, too, and the hang gliders, and our friends with young kids who had already returned home for an afternoon nap.
We were a little late for the party.
Still, we managed a few cute family photos in front of the bright red firetrucks, a nice lunch at Shlomo’s and then some hang time on the patio with friends drinking beer in the sunshine. Aspen had that sparkling quality to it, illuminated in brilliant color of denim sky and verdant gladed hills and flowers everywhere, fireworks of color in neat gardens and carefully manicured pots. It was impossible not to get swept up in it all, the smell of charcoal wafting through the streets, the throngs of beautiful people frolicking around in this beautiful place, my little towhead in his Hawaiian shirt, waving his plastic red, white and blue spin wheel in the breeze and loving the party like a seasoned Aspenite.
We sailed home on the endless expanse of the Rio Grande Trail, the wind in our faces and the sun hot and bright overhead. We flowed alongside the river like a major vein channeling blood to the heart of the valley, taking us home.
It made me think twice about my patriotism. Maybe political rhetoric is just that — a big show. Maybe Ryan was right when he said the day after the election, “I promise you, the sun will continue to shine on the Roaring Fork Valley.”
And it does. Despite the tumultuous times and the feeling of chaos that has plagued us, we are so lucky to be here. America is still worth celebrating — especially here at home, especially here in Aspen.
The Princess is a little scared because the babe just learned how to say “no.” Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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