The first thing everyone always says is "how do you deal with those crowds?" The answer is simple:
No kidding. Back in the day, Front Row Center involved showing up with my dad and siblings around 8:00 pm on the night of the 3rd with a tarp and a blanket to secure your spot, then hanging out all night. I lived my tween and teen years there. First under the closely watchful eye of my father and later with increasing freedom to move.
We met hundreds of people, spent time with family we might not otherwise have seen, made friends with all the police and service people you could think of, and met a ton of local celebrities. I've brought my closest friends, flirted with my cousins' friends, walked along the Charles River, and watched the sunrise over The Public Garden with my father. I know what it is to truly feel patriotic. In those moments, I'm supremely proud of my country.
The question the reporters always asked is "Is it worth it?" I've been there in the pouring rain, like today. I've been there in the broiling heat with my parents demanding I drink more water and contemplate taking us home. And I've been there in jeans and sweatshirts - and one year even a turtleneck! But as the sun begins to set and the orchestra arrives and begins to tune up, you know; it's so worth it.
As the years passed and we "went national," and especially as the world became a more dangerous place, it became necessary to get there earlier, and more and more restrictions were placed on our movement. It became more work and less fun. And that's when I said 'enough.'
The Pops used to play a few more concerts at the Esplanade throughout the month of July and even after the 4th became a major event, you could still go to the Esplanade with just a blanket and picnic basket and enjoy a wonderful summer's evening set to an amazing soundtrack. I miss those days.
Lying on a blanket in The Oval, watching the sky darken, listening to live classical music remains 'my happy place.' In my mind, I go there often.
Today, my brother and younger sister are there (sans significant others - for some reason, none of our four S.O.'s ever really 'got it'). My older sister turns 41 with her family, down in Williamsburg, VA (Happy Birthday, Dan), and my mom's joining us for a barbecue with our neighbors.
Whatever you do today, celebrate and enjoy. Happy 4th of July.