A Different Independence Day

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer
7 min readJul 3, 2022

Finding Hope In This Dark Moment

Photo by Harrison Mitchell on Unsplash

On Independence Day, when I was growing up, we would go to cookouts at the Weinstein’s* house. There was always a kickball game, adults vs. kids and when the sun went down, Mr. Weinstein handed out sparklers to all of us children and his teenage sons set off fountains, firecrackers and bottle rockets way down on the lawn while we, awestruck and exhausted, watched from what the mothers deemed a safe distance on the back deck.

Before the game, Mr. Weinstein stood grilling kosher hot dogs and burgers while the other fathers stood around him, pulling bottles of Miller Lite, Michelob or Iron City Ale from the icy Igloo cooler, talking about how the Pirates were doing that year.

The women, meanwhile, shmoozed in the kitchen, arranging their fruit salads or layered brownie desserts on the long buffet table. They drank instant coffee with Sweet’N Low or sipped Lipton iced tea. Someone, I suppose, was expected to stay sober.

We children ran around outdoors, roaming free until the food was cooked and the game ready to begin. I was sometimes invited into the upstairs bedroom of the Weinstein girl, who was the same age as my older sister, but more often than not was told to get lost.

On the day that Mr. Rosenberg grabbed his son by the back of the head until he cried in front of everyone, I was on my own, barred from the older girls’ gossip and told by mother to go play. I was headed towards my Dad, who would let me sit beside him in that circle of men, even if no other females entered that space.

Mikey Rosenberg, a year younger than me, in third grade then, ran through the fathers on the way to the yard, where some kids were playing hide and seek, and knocked over someone’s beer.

His father grabbed him by the back of his head, held him by his curly brown hair. I saw Mr. Rosenberg’s face transform into a rageful monster what the fuck do you think you’re doing running through here say you’re goddammed sorry who do you think you are.

Mikey was pulling away while his father clamped down harder. You’re hurting me! he squalled.

Someone finally put his arm on Mr. Rosenberg’s shoulder, said come on, he’s just a kid. Mr. Rosenberg let…

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Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Writer, Educator, Mom. Disability advocate. Dog Lover. Teaching online workshops on writing + spiritual growth. www.gabriellekaplanmayer.com