Memories can be funny things. What are your Fourth of July memories?
My earliest memories center around the terror I felt on that day!
I knew that it was a holiday, but I didn’t understand it. Why such fuss over making noises that hurt your ears?
Why would you want to shoot a cap gun? Or accordion-fold a string of gunpowder caps to hit with a wooden hammer, so that you could make an explosion big enough to launch the tail?
My parents dutifully attempted to get me excited by bringing home gunpowder cap rolls, cap guns, wooden cap hammers, magic snakes, and sparklers.
In an effort to participate, I would hold my cap gun in one hand, raise that same shoulder in an attempt to cover my ear, and use my free hand to plug the other ear. It must have been quite a sight to behold.
My brother was next to me, but I can’t remember if he was enjoying the whole process as much as I was (ha).
Then, there were the snakes. At least these didn’t make any noise. The sulfur smell and dark black marks on the sidewalk literally left an impression.
After lunch, we piled into the car and headed to my grandmother’s house.
My uncles, who I thought were a bit scary anyway, were laughing and shouting as they threw firecrackers in the alley.
Great. More noise.
I specifically remember that they were throwing cherry bombs, but then my younger uncle pulled out what my dad called an “M-80.”
“You can’t light that,” my dad cautioned my uncle. “You’re gonna blow yourself up!”
My uncle laughed and headed to the alley.
A minute later, I heard a big boom. It echoed off the hills surrounding my grandmother’s house.
That M-80 didn’t have the cracking sound of caps and cherry bombs, or the whistle and snap of bottle rockets. In a way, it seemed more tolerable.
It blew a hole in the ground.
After dinner, as the daylight began to fade, the neighbor kids came out and brought sparklers.
They showed me how to hold an unlighted sparkler to a flaming one, to light it up. They showed be how to run and leave a trail of sparks (yes, we ran with sparklers back then).
At first, those tiny zaps on my hands from the sparks took me aback. But, the pretty light from the sparks outdid the slight discomfort.
We made big sparkler hoops by circling our arms. We lit two at once. We danced together in our spark showers.
Now, I was starting to have some fun!
When it was really dark, the adults began moving lawn chairs from the porch into the grass. All of the chairs were facing south. My mom took me in her lap and told me to watch the sky.
“Why, what am I looking for?” I asked suspiciously.
“Just wait,” She answered.
Then, I saw a flash and heard a distant whistle. Suddenly, the sky burst into giant sparklers of every color. I was mesmerized. Boom, boom, boom.
And, it became clear to me why everyone had been so excited.
The whole day was a prelude to this light extravaganza. I could even tolerate the noise of the exploding shells (with hands over my ears).
Exhausted, but satisfied that I finally understood the Fourth of July, I was glad to be bundled into the car and taken home to bed.
Covering your ears all day takes a lot of energy.
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