The Fourth

When I was a kid, the Fourth of July was great. I remember being on my grandparents’ farm and watching the fireworks from the patio next to the fishing pond. My dad would set off a fireworks display from the island in the middle of one of the man-made ponds.

I have such wonderful memories of that farm. Looking back now, I realize that there was likely no way my grandparents could have afforded, let alone maintained, that life. But it was amazing in the years it lasted. Their subsequent houses paled in comparison. In 7th grade computer class, we had to design our dream houses and my dream house was based on the design of my grandparents’ farm house in Ferris, Texas.

There was exposed, rough wood along the walls (I got a few splinters). Telephone poles stood in the place of structural columns. The stairs and banisters were wood stained a honey color. An antique toilet – one with a pull chain – was in the hallway bathroom next to the claw foot bathtub. The pantry cabinet was quite tall and I think each shelve had a lazy susan in it (the tall size could be attributed to my being a kid at the time).

One day I might sketch out everything again, though I am not a farm woman. I also could not imagine having that big of a house with just myself (and maybe a partner one day). The size of the house was ideal for entertaining, sure, but for day-to-day life, it would be a lot to keep up with. I wonder how much the electric bills were!

Those idyllic days of my childhood on my grandparents’ farm make my estrangement from them (just my grandmother now) all that more painful. I have written about that before and I don’t wish to get into it again right now.

As I got older (though still a kid), my parents would have friends and neighbors over for the Fourth. My dad would set off fireworks in the middle of the street. I would write my name in the air with sparklers after an afternoon of running around in the lawn sprinklers.

Fast forward to being high school age. Yet again we were celebrating with my grandparents (the estrangement didn’t occur until I was in college). They were having a second go at farm life, this time in Maypearl, Texas. I remember being sort of jaded about the whole thing. It’s not like I had some other invitation I was missing out on, but I remember being irritated by the energy of my younger family members. I recall thinking my grandfather was an asshole for something related to my high school debate career and politics. Perhaps I’m meshing two Fourth of Julys together.

I recall the summer when my family was building our house. My sister and cousin discovered that burying a lit sparkler in the sand creates a cool-looking smoke effect, like a volcano.

Fast forward yet again to the summer between freshman and sophomore year of college. I was living with my uncle and aunt in Dallas. We went to the Kaboomtown fireworks display in Dallas. We wore special free glasses that gave the fireworks an additional glowing effect and ate a picnic we brought along.

Another Fourth was spent at my parents. We dragged lawn chairs up in the pasture. My dad lit firecrackers and fireworks, occasionally launching them at my sister’s boyfriend.

The year after that, I think fireworks got delayed. I do remember watching a fireworks display with my first boyfriend in the backyard of some hoity-toity house in Garland. The type of house where the backyard is part of a golf course, I think. That house was impressive (to me) mainly because it had a dog house built in to the actual house in a really nice way.

Zoom to my first summer in Norman. This was before school even started. It was raining during the day and I watched Star Wars on TV. That evening, Izzie and I went for a walk in the park across the street as fireworks went off above us.

In my next to last summer in Norman, I hung out with one of my neighbors and her friends. It was somewhat odd, though I welcomed the company. One of these women went off on a rant about the n-word and how it just means “ignorant” and how she, as a white woman, should get to use it. She had dated black men, after all. Later that evening, I rode with them to the baseball fields to watch fireworks. The kids there needed to go to the bathroom and the mom and the kid both went in a bush nearby. My neighbor went off to get pizza and I just sat there with these strangers and their kids. I think I tried to make conversation, but it was difficult because I felt so out of place. My not drinking seemed to be off-putting to the group. The kids were antsy from needing naps they were deprived of. Eventually they grew tired of the fireworks and sat in a suburban watching a DVD. I believe my neighbor and I left early so that we could beat the traffic out of the area.

I think my first Fourth here in Ohio was spent at the movie theater, though I could not say for certain what I saw. I just remember driving back to my house and seeing fireworks.

This year, I have no plans. I have been babying my dog who is afraid of firework explosions, telling him that he is brave as he stands there in his Thundershirt.

I think about how they go off nightly at Disneyland and Disney World, each night meant to be a special experience while, for the employees, it is just another day at work. I wonder if they think the jockeying for prime spots to see those nightly fireworks is amusing or annoying. Yet I have been one of those people.

Fireworks are brilliant, but I doubt that the magic of the Fourth will ever come back, just like the magic of most holidays has dissipated in adulthood.

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