Two days ago, July 4th arrived. Who among us doesn’t like July 4th, except for certain dogs with superb hearing and young children with their sensitive ears? Memories rush in for the 4th. Such as family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins leaving their fields, arriving at our farm during early evening, just as the darkening sky begins to illuminate the stars. As a ten-year-old, containing my excitement the entire day was nearly impossible.
If anyone relished the celebration, it was our father. Every year he ordered a massive number of fireworks from a company called Rich Brothers. The box was so large, full of every kind of fireworks imaginable, that a few days before the 4th, he had to drive the five miles to our little town and pick it up from either the train passing through or a freight company. My siblings and I waited impatiently, watching in the distance for his pickup to come barreling home down our country road, dust trailing him, swirling in the air, a precursor to his arrival. He’d carry the hefty box into our kitchen as we oohed and aahed when he set it on the linoleum floor and opened the cardboard lid, revealing the adored sparklers, roman candles, bottle rockets, fountains, helicopters, snakes and so much more. My heart quivered and my stomach flipped as I envisioned a show that would be just like Disneyland’s fireworks. Our father allowed us to have the snakes early and the long carbon ashes forming snakes stretching this way and that over the sidewalk was pure delight. The cement path leading to our house was marked with patterned dark powder everywhere. But, oh the fun.
Once the relatives arrived and it was dark enough, the adults lit the show. We leaned against the parked cars and trees nearby as one after the other firework shot into the sky, bursting loud enough to vibrate one’s eardrums or reveal spraying colors painting the sky. Near accidents happened. Once, a guy dating my cousin was chased by an out-of- control flying spinner that was supposed to go up, not sideways. He was the target and as he took off running for the porch door, it followed him like a hungry mosquito, burning his pants pocket before he reached safety. Our parents also told of the time when all of us cousins were much younger, and someone accidentally dropped a lighter into the box of fireworks. They said parents scrambled, grabbing kids standing everywhere, and ran.
During each 4th, the finale was sparklers, sometimes one in each hand as we waved them, burning our names and shapes against the black tapestry. Once the last sparkler fizzled out, everyone drifted inside for homemade ice cream and cake, a delicious top off for the evening.
I miss it. Family living closer, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins no more than thirty minutes away in all directions. I long for those special times when we joined for a celebration. So much laughter filled the air. I took for granted this connection with one another. If I could grab my children’s and grandchildren’s hands magically for just one summer evening, I would show them the entire event from picking up the box of fireworks to the last sparkler. I know they would love it.