On the Fourth

[repost from an old blog]

Growing up, the Fourth generally went something like this. All the neighbors would gather for a block party shortly before dark. The dads would pull out their grills while the chaos of kids ran back and forth, house to house, barefoot. There would be a pile of sparklers and poppers.  The latter became impromptu ammunition as the moms made sure noone accidentally set themselves – or anyone else – on fire with the former. Our house usually supplied the music. Three foot speakers would be dragged to the open windows and blast The Eagles, Chicago, and the Civil War soundtrack to supplement the noise level.

All this would continue until it was finally dark enough to bring out the big ones. By “big ones,” I don’t mean the large boxes found at every fireworks tent that shot 1-2′ in the air. Oh no. Our big ones required a rocket launcher (read jury-rigged ladder and pvc pipe). Everyone knows the best – and illegal – fireworks come from Wyoming, conveniently located a couple hours to the north.

The show would, inevitably, begin with the first pyrotechnics loaded into the launcher upside down, resulting in a line of fireballs bouncing down the street and toward our lawn. Mild concern would ensue, but this was the reason why everyone spent some time earlier in the day soaking their lawns (and roofs) in preparation. The problem was corrected and the next rocket launched high above the houses, causing the kids to either run for cover or race to see who could find the debris first.

It was better than any professional display, and the fire department was never required – much to the disappointment of the younger boys. (Ok, so there was that one year we managed to set one neighbor’s driveway on fire…who happened to be out of town.)

Things have changed since then. The old crowd has grown older and moved. Still, a new generation of kids continues the popper battles and sparkler recklessness. I’m sure some still make the trip north for the “big ones,” which have been glimpsed occasionally this past week. And while it never quite seems like the Fourth without dodging at least one flaming projectile, it still feels like a celebration.

So whether your day include pyrotechnics either on screen or in person, I hope it is a good one. Let’s celebrate this country of ours.

Happy 4th of July!

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