Go Fourth

    If I have scared away my readership with the previous blogs this week, I now have a nice private moment to do something I was fairly certain I would never do.  There will thus be no witnesses, giving me plausible deniability if someone says “I saw you were reminiscing about the Fourth of July.”

    People start reminiscing about Christmases past about the time they hit twelve (Hey, remember when at least half your presents would be NON-erlecronic?) and they start reminiscing about New year’s Eves past when they hit thirty (Man, I used to be able to start partying at noon New Year’s Eve and not get done ‘til dawn on the second!)  But for over fifty years, I have listened to people recall their Fourth of Julys and these were invariably REALLY OLD people.  I will thus record my own reminiscences now, before I get that old, and no one will notice.

    We did not have a red, white, and blue menu.  Blue raspberry drinks had not reached our part of the country, by and large, so blue was difficult,.  But we made up for it on red, with dinner-plate sized slices of watermelon (with seeds, which we did NOT spit).

    We were always in the high school band, so we would dress in white T-shirts, red bandanas, and blue jeans and march through town.  This was a personal problem, as I gave up jeans as soon as I was old enough to make my feelings count. (See, back in those days, denim had to be broken in by wearing it, and until you’d worn it a dozen times or so, it was the consistency of a fiberglass board. I eventually owned ONE pair of denim jeans, just for Independence Day.)

   Our personal fireworks were limited to sparklers and occasionally a pointless object called a snake, which, when lit, expanded into a long black ropelike thing.  Sparklers, involving personal interaction with live fire, were way more exciting.  My mother handled fire anxieties at Christmas (Did you water the tree?  Don’t leave the lights on too long) but my father was in charge of that concession on the Fourth of July.  His main concern was the whereabouts of the family cat.  A few sparks could be the stuff of nightmares.  This never happened.  The family cats were a wise breed, and never came anywhere near us when we were waving fire around.  (I believe home movies exist of us trying to make stars and spell our names with sparklers, but like a lot of holiday doings, these were a lot more exciting to perform than to watch later on.

    Fireworks outside we rook for granted.  We didn’t need to get in the car to watch them; they came to us.  Our house was not far from the fairgrounds and our neighbors across the street had thoughtfully arranged their roofs and trees so as to frame the fireballs perfectly in the sky.

    There was SOME drama to the fireworks, as PBS came to town in my formative years, and there was invariably some big Fourth of July concert just at the time we would all be outside watching fireworks.  This was before the days of YouTube or even, really, the VCR, so if you missed either the live fireworks or the live television concert, you had missed it for goods.  This could call for frantic commutes from the living room to the front steps.

    During what I laughingly refer to as my maturity, the Fourth became just a day off in the last month toward the massive book festival I worked at the end of July: I concocted maps and lists while I watched The Longest Day (if these guys could manage to pull off D-Day, I could take care of a little shindig like ours.)  It made for a quiet weekend, sometimes the last quiet one before the fireworks of the Book Fair.

    This year I am planning to watch the Longest Day, and listen to the fireworks from my window.  My refrigerator would not even hold a watermelon these days, and I’m not sure I could, either.  The last sparklers I saw had been used as bookmarks, and I quickly tossed them away before library security could go on a search for explosives in the rest of the book donation.       

    But I certainly wish anybody out there a Fourth of July you can reminisce about when you are much, much older than I am now.

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