Anticipating a 'not normal' Fourth of July

  • Friends came over to watch the Fourth of July parade from my yard last year.

    Friends came over to watch the Fourth of July parade from my yard last year. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted6/27/2020 7:00 AM

Here we go … another major holiday under pandemic conditions. We have made lots of accommodations, but I don't think I will ever really be comfortable with the "new normal."

We passed Easter without group dinners and in-person church services; we passed Mother's Day without taking mom out to brunch at her favorite restaurant; we've passed birthdays and graduations "at home" without parties or attending ceremonies with graduates walking across the stage (in person), enjoying the moment.


This has all been difficult and especially so for those grieving, who should be surrounded by friends and family on holidays. It's been three months so far for most of us -- and now here is Fourth of July.

This is one of our premier annual celebrations with large crowds, parades, people gathered together at community events, music and picnics. Huge throngs watch fireworks in Chicago and most of our local communities. In Sleepy Hollow, we usually have a full day of events from early morning to a big fireworks display at sundown.

There's live music, food and games on the village green. I normally have friends over to watch the local parade from my front porch and yard, serving food and drinks. For the last three years, I've had 20 or 25 exercise class friends come over about 10:30 a.m. for the parade and lunch. It's not possible this year.

This all sounds a bit like "ain't it awful" talk. I should not go there. It's not really justified because I have been managing and doing OK. Of course, I realize many people are indeed stressed both emotionally and financially by this pandemic. Yet many people are getting somewhat fed up with "staying at home." However, we can be realistic about the difficulties and still carry on.

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As we know, holidays and special personal occasions can be painful for the bereaved, even years later. I'm already thinking some sad thoughts about spending another July Fourth without my dear Baheej. We always had such fun, even if we spent it by ourselves. Usually we had a barbecue with family or friends, depending on the year. We went to all the village events and watched fireworks from our front porch. Forty-four years of fun celebrations and parades in Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts and, for the last 28 years, right here in Sleepy Hollow.

Baheej usually grilled on the patio. So the day holds both sad and happy memories for me. Baheej would expect me to focus on the happy memories, so I will do my best. He was such a wonderful and joyful influence. His name even means joyful, ebullient.

Actually, there is no way around the fact most of us will miss having the usual, cherished Fourth of July this year. Even as Illinois and most states relax some of the safety precautions, July Fourth just won't be the same.

So what to do? People and organizations have gotten pretty inventive with "workarounds" where many events, music and celebrations are held online rather than in person. That helps.


In my case, I plan to decorate the house and porch as usual -- flying flags with everything red, white and blue. I'll make some typical Fourth of July food and snacks. I will sit on the front porch, have refreshments (by myself), look out at the trees and green grass, and wave to neighbors walking their dogs. I shall count my blessings. I will continue to be cautious.

Who knows, maybe the local fire trucks will circle the village green and go right by my house on the annual Sleepy Hollow parade route, blowing their horns. Perhaps a couple of veterans will march in front carrying the flag. And later I'll water my back patio "garden" (pots) and admire my pretty herbs and flowers. I'll pay special attention to Baheej's lovely and colorful Gerbera daisies.

We must stay the course. Keep the faith. Find a bright spot in the day. Think good thoughts and have a happy Fourth!

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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