The other night as I was talking to my younger cousin about plans for July 4th, I began remembering some of the “celebrations” from the past. When my brother and I were in elementary school, we spent the week of July 4th at my aunt and uncle’s house. Their kids, our cousins, were several years older, so staying there was like hanging out with the cool kids at school. For July 4th, my cousin Tommy would spend almost all his money on fireworks, and we would sit under the carport and watch them soar into the air or scuttle around on the ground. The next day, the fun was definitely over because we had to pick up all the bits of paper that survived the flames and explosions.
One year, we had tremendous thunderstorm on the afternoon of July 4th. My cousins and their friends stood on the carport watching the storm pass over, despite my aunt’s predictions that they would be struck down by lightning. My brother and I, however, were easier to convince to stay inside. My uncle got the bright idea to take a potato from the pantry and toss it in the yard so the water would carry it right by my cousins and they would think it had washed away from the garden. I think they fell for it only at first, but I, being so young, felt a sense of excitement from being included in the joke.
When I was a teenager, I always spent July 4th on a trip with the youth group from church. (Read one story about that here.) In college, I was usually working, but most of my friends lived out of town, so there wasn’t anyone to hang out with.
Just after I turned 23, I dropped out of grad school to get a “real job,” and one of my coworkers invited me and a few others over to her house (well more like her parents’ house) in the boondocks for a cookout. That event became a tradition until she got her own place several years later. We’d eat, drink, play pool and go swimming, and after dark, her dad and her boyfriend would light up the hundreds of dollars worth of fireworks they bought. The rest of us sat on blankets, swatted mosquitos and prepared to run at any moment from a stray sky rocket.
Perhaps the reason I love fireworks on the Fourth of July is because they remind me of these good times – the ones that always ended with my sides and my cheeks sore from laughing; my voice hoarse from trying to talk with everyone else; my skin sticky, my hair frizzy and my clothes damp from the humidity; my ears ringing from the fireworks popping and the endless chatter; and my mind etched with memories that never seem to burn out.