July 4th 1973, Celebrating Through the Eyes of a Childby Ana Gomez Montalbano on 06/20/16
Remember when childhood lazy days of summer meant freedom was spending time in the "great outdoors". No schedules, no morning chores, no homework and almost no rules.
My first fishing trip was along the banks of the San Jacinto River where I caught a needle-nosed fanged-teeth gar. My father caught the reel before it dragged me in but over the years I stretched the story some. Blackberry picking along the railroad tracks was an adventure in itself. It took us the whole morning to fill a small paper bag because we ate more than we filled. I never worried about snakes and never saw them but I did come close to being hit by a a fast-moving train. Unaware, I was more mad at my sister for shoving me out of its way. When you are a kid, danger is unthinkable.
Riding my banana seat bike was my favorite because it allowed me to travel far away and it was the only thing my brother didn't tear up because if he did, he would lose a riding partner for sure. Through the neighborhood trails we peddled fast to safe passage and we never dare to venture alone. We were frightened of the "boogie-dragon" who hid in the thick brush waiting to surprise attack and swallow a kid whole. On the other side of the trails was the sparkling kingdom 5 miles from home also known as the local ice cream parlor.
We lived as free-spirits. A time when the neighborhood-watch meant if you got out of control, no matter how far you ventured from home, your mom would know about it.
The glory of all glorious days happened on July 4th. Yards were packed with cook-outs and screaming kids. Flaming bbq pits seemed like a competition among the neighborhood dads as they poured on the lighter fluid onto the charcoal(now a carcinogen). For a child, this was a day to be reckoned with. Weenies burnt to a crisp fell from the grill and onto the ground could be eaten without a 5-second rule applying. Soda straight from the bottle burned your throat going down and we could drink as many only to surrender to milk of magnesia right before bedtime. And ice cream never could stay in the cone. It had to be eaten in 20 seconds or else drip straight down to the ground where the ants would gather and waste no time in a sneaky biting frenzy to make you drop the cone altogether.
I took a huge chance to pull out my accumulated stash of candy assortments hidden away from mothers view which was blended into the mix of an already sugar-loaded day.
We didn't complain about how hot and sticky we were under the blazing sun nor at dusk when our bug-bitten legs and arms swelled like a allergic affect from the high-fructose sugar substances eaten the entire day(when soda was not harmful and when no such protection as bug spray). We quenched our thirsty little heads straight from the water hose and cooled down with water sprays to the face.
By nightfall, I couldn't wait to grab a pocket full of ground-blasters. Lighting the short fuse was no fun, though. My reaction time in lighting a match and igniting the fuse was too short lived. Burned fingers were a ritual on July 4th but I wanted nothing of the sort so in my attempted to practice lighting matches, I gained a callous from match burns. God forbid if mother should find a wailing child from burns. The embarrassment of being scolded in front of the older kids over a throbbing finger on fire was enough punishment to last a life time.
On firecracker day, there were fire-poppers(usually older kids with fast reaction time) and then there were the rest of us. Little kids had to come up with strategies or be fire-popped. Mine was to hit two birds with one stone by taking control of the water hose, spraying a fire-popper while damping his ammunition and then run like hell. The bottle rockets were the scariest because there was tremendous speed behind the ignition and the fire-poppers would aim into every direction except the sky. Can't believe we survived.
July 4th is a celebration of our American independence, a feeling of contentment and the beauty of childhood memories. Every year, in my attempt to relive those childhood days grows stronger. The great outdoors seem like a wonderful plan. Then slowly, age takes over. The heat becomes unbearable too quickly and the bugs are merciless! Firing up the bbq pit starts out like a party but winds up ridiculous the more the margaritas take effect. I swear my taste buds are too sensitive these days.
By nightfall, worn out by the heat and savagely bitten by enormous mosquitoes, our plan to watch a fireworks show at a jammed packed park has fizzled. The Star-Spangled Fireworks Spectacular on TV sounds more like it but as the symphony plays on, it reminds me how much I'm missing the magic.
Waiting for a second wind is unusual these days so I down two cups of java and ready for action. Only one hour left before the fireworks warehouses close so off we speed down the road.
Upon our arrival, the parking lot is full. Finally we locate a parking space nearly 2 blocks away and now left with 15 minutes to shop. At the entrance, the doors fly open and a fog appears. As it dissipates, there, front and center, stands a 6 foot high box packaged and waiting for the desperate woman-child like me to load it up and take it home. It was the biggest and the baddest of all firework displays bundled up in one package ever!
Whistlers, thunder strings, smoke bombs, tons of sky burst rocketry, paratroopers, wolfpack rockets, warheads, and the grand finale red, white and blue racks, the mother lode of all true July 4th patriotism! I could not resist nor could my husband who's eyes grew as wide as his smile when he stroke the package with a gleam in his eye.
We rolled up in our drive way and swiftly began setting up our show. The neighbors circled in closer to get a view of our goods as we line it up for a street spectacular! Drum roll! Wait! Racing into the house, grab my tablet and search for Tchiakovsky's "1812 Overture" on you tube for great background effects!
One by one as the displays were launched into the dark sky, a burst of many colors painted our view. I cannot help but grin from ear to ear as a chuckle takes me back to my childhood summers.
$300 worth of fireworks spent in 20 minutes and even now I still manage to come out with a blistered finger. But just like a kid again...a reminder of the pleasantries of life, our freedoms. A feeling of contentment overcomes me.