By Jeff Martin

As much as I’m looking forward to the Fourth of July 4, I’m also dreading it.

For the past month, my two sons, aged 14 and 7, have been visiting me from where they currently live most of the year with their mother.

When they arrived on June 1, coming down the ramp from the plane, I was speechless over how much they had grown. Because it had been a year since I had last seen them in person, I was shocked to see that my oldest son had eclipsed my height, standing just a pinch of sugar taller than me. He had a mustache, faint but noticeable, that I hadn’t noticed on the webcam and his voice was deeper.

My youngest son had grown, too, but the changes were in definition. His nose and cheekbones were sharper and his forehead had more acreage. His arms were spindly. When I picked him up, his weight had grown from a packet of sugar to a duffel bag full of flour.

Two hours later and it was like they had never been away. We fell into old rhythms and conversations, though now I know why my parents got discouraged with me when I was 14, a period of age that seems to invoke a sense of indifference and secrecy among those who navigate through the teen years.

Unlike my youngest boy, who displayed wonderment and excitement over even the smallest of events, my oldest had become the great economizer of language — all responses had become one-word responses. I finally realized that, yes, parents do have revenge on their children by moving the circle clockwise. My mother once said to me, “I hope your children don’t act like you’re acting with us right now.”

We had some great times — learning to fish in Cattaraugus Creek, where the smallmouth bass fight for their lives, breaking the surface of the water in an effort to unhook themselves; driving portions of the Amish Trail and marveling at their exquisite furniture; attending the Gowanda festival; gorging ourselves on sponge candy. My sister took them to the Buffalo Zoo and, for the first time, my youngest experienced Niagara Falls, an experience that inspired a basic and fantastic comment, “That’s a lot of water, dad.”

We hiked numerous trails and waded into the Cattaraugus Creek. The landscape, a mixture of pine forests and massive cliffs, was different from where they live and they reacted as anyone who has a break from routine would — with relief and a sense of joy, wonderment.

Even my oldest came around, asking to do things he didn’t appear particularly interested in when he first arrived. I think the mixture of rural living with modern excitements, including the Mountain Coaster in Ellicottville, finally clamped hold of him and wouldn’t let go.

And, as their time of departure nears, I couldn’t be happier to celebrate our time together during the Fourth of July 4 with many fireworks displays in the area. It will be a bittersweet time for me, for I won’t see my boys again in person until the Christmas season.

Thing is, the concept of snow is alien to them where they live now. The closest thing they get to ice is in their freezer. Imagine my excitement over the idea of taking them into Ellicottville during the Christmas season. It made me feel like a little kid when I first experienced Christmas in the village last season.

Feeling like a kid with your own children …

Isn’t that what’s important in the end?