I’ve been thinking about picnics a lot lately. Probably because the 4th of July reminds me of the picnics of my youth. When my mom and dad and brother Jimmy would head out to Scio for hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill. Mom’s potato salad. Corn on the cob. Watermelon & pies for dessert.

The 4th is one of my favorite holidays. Probably as much for the sheer celebratory nature of it as the proximity to my birthday. Makes me feel like the whole country is shooting off fireworks to mark my life anniversary.

But, I think the best picnics were just the everyday summer kind that we took on our trips to the beach. Mine was not a family that loaded up a basket with cutlery, wine, and finger sandwiches. Nope. Daddy (in those days, I think I thought it was funny to be like Maynard G. Krebs, you know the beatnik from Dobie Gillis, and call my father Poopsy) would take a cardboard box he picked up from Safeway and load it up with our idea of a picnic. Big slab of Nebergall’s bologna, a loaf of Williams bread, a can of black olives (you know – the kind without the pits that you could line up on your fingers) and Heinz pork and beans. Sometimes, for a treat, some Blue Bell potato chips. And, a couple of cans of frozen Cragmont soda tossed in to keep everything cool. (fruit punch was my favorite — tasted like carbonated Hawaiian punch).

You know – it is not just the thoughts of the picnic food. It was the whole memory package. We would only have picnics like that when we went to the beach. Maybe Mom and Dad planned those trips to Newport. But, as a little one, it seemed to me that I would just wake up on a Saturday morning, and hear “we’re going to the beach!” Nothing thrilled me more. Believe me, the voyage was not that much fun – sitting in the back seat of that Studebaker, and later Chevy impalas, carsick, with mom sitting in the front, smoking unfiltered Philip Morris cigarettes.

It was those two magic words. The Beach. I look at those same picnic tables we headed to now, as an adult, and they seem so small – surrounded by scraggly coastal trees But, when we were little, they were magical. Heading to Devils Punch Bowl, crawling out of the car, getting our picnic out of the trunk, and getting our fingers all greased up with bologna sandwiches and cold pork & beans.

Now, them’s some good memories. Keep your baskets & forks. Just give me a thawed out can of frozen fruit punch Cragmont soda, and I would still be a happy camper.

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