You can't see it here but the stamp on the back of this old photograph reads "July 1969."
A lot happened that month. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon and the first U.S. troops left Vietnam. New York Mets ace Tom Seaver lost his bid for a no hitter with only two outs left in the ninth. Brian Jones, the original leader of The Rolling Stones, drowned in his swimming pool. And, in a tragedy that would haunt him the rest of his days, Ted Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a car accident on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, an accident where a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne had died.
Very early that month, July 4th to be precise, something a bit less noteworthy occurred: I learned that if ever I was to grow up and become a man I would need to learn how to build a fire, drink a cold beer, and cook an enormous amount of sausage, peppers and onions for the people I love.
Please don't ask me why. It's just what we're supposed to do. And you know it.
I could look at this picture a thousand more times and every time the tastes inside my head will be the same. Not a red pepper or garlic clove or onion slice or fennel seed's bit of difference.
It's the way I like it. The same. Every time.
Uncle Joe does the cooking because it is his backyard, his makeshift brick-and-cinder block fire pit, and his party. Uncle Dominic consults with his brother and drinks his cold beer. The rest of the family, thirty of us perhaps, wait for my uncles to announce that it's time to eat.
Somewhere nearby I am watching and learning.
Summer is coming. Time to man up.