Remembering 4th of July as a child
Jun 27, 2017 12:55PM ● Published by Today's Family
As a child, summer meant time at the beach located conveniently across the street from my house. But with Mom busy with all my siblings, we didn’t have the chance to swim as often as we liked. As a result, we were forced to find other ways to amuse ourselves.
We lived in a quiet neighborhood, one blessed with an asphalt road, where bikes and roller skates became our next passion. With adjustable skates that expanded to fit most shoe sizes, we could speed skate down the street, metal wheels click-clacking on the blacktop, leaving marks in our wake. Or we’d hop on our bikes, an assortment of hand-me downs, to race around the block, or speed off to the playground in half the time of walking. Daylight hours were spent mostly out in the sunshine, much to our mother’s delight. And as the summer breeze cooled the evening air, we’d be back outside for softball, soccer or, if it was dark enough, hide-and-seek. Our yard was the unofficial summer games headquarters, due partly to the fact that it had the most open space of all our friend’s, and partly because half the team lived there -- one of the benefits of a large family.
With so many nights spent outside playing games and chasing fireflies, it was easy to lose track of those long summer nights. When the Fourth of July finally rolled around during the heart of season, it was a big change. Instead of a relaxed evening eating dinner then being turned loose outside, mom had to rush to cajole six kids into clean and presentable shape. Then, we'd all pile into our hot, sticky station wagon then fight over who was touching who as we stuck to the vinyl seats on the way to watch fireworks at a community park. No matter how packed it became, once the fireworks began, the crowd would settle. Soon all that could be heard were the ooohs and aaahs of the particularly impressive explosions.
Once we made it back to our car, counted heads and loaded up, we waited eons for traffic to clear. Once we arrived back at home and were getting ready for bed, we heard random bangs and pops outside. It was neighborhood hooligans trying to prolong the night with bottle rockets, roman candles, and those noisy red fire crackers the size of a pack of birthday candles that could “blow a kids hand off,” according to my mother.
The next year, Dad decided to forgo the crowds and host his own fireworks extravaganza. It was thrilling in the days leading up to the big event. Dad got more and more excited as he brought home box after box of the latest in flammable entertainment, adding to our anticipation. Not surprisingly, Mom was less than thrilled. After shaking her head, she laid down the ground rules, explaining that we would all remain at a safe distance away from the display. Much to our chagrin, she stated that no one but Dad would be getting anywhere near the lighter or the fireworks, or the evening would be over before it began. Disappointed, we all agreed to her terms.
When the big night finally came, Dad congratulated himself that we could have our own 4th in the comfort of our own backyard. Then he got to work, a safe distance away and the big show began. I’m not sure what my kid-self expected, but the DIY display was admittedly not as long or as impressive as the community display. But boy, it sure was much louder! And the added excitement of having a few land on our roof, and the little detail of making sure the house didn’t catch fire made for an epic evening. Not surprisingly, my father’s pyrotechnic career ended that night.
Sadly, my kids have never known such an eventful evening. Every year since they were big enough to remember, we load up the car and head to our community fireworks display for a fun evening with our friends and neighbors. And while those unseen professionals launch those high-tech explosions far from the crowds, who wait expectantly, safely seated across the sports field, I can’t help but think of what we miss, in the name of safety and security. But now that I’m a mom, I can understand. And like my mom, I sure hope someone doesn’t blow their hand off.