Here it is again: the 4th of July, the day of Independence. Flags will be flying, people will be decked out in their finest red, white and blue attire, and without a doubt, politics and patriotism will come into discussion.
I have to admit. The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Not because of “American pride” or the celebration of Independence Day, but because the best childhood memories I have, usually take place on the 4th of July.
The 4th was my dad’s favorite holiday. My mom had Christmas, my mother liked Easter, but the 4th? That was my dad’s day. He used to save up all year to buy the best fireworks. No exaggeration, the Terrill fireworks were the best fireworks.
There was a joyous routine to the day. We would always have an “All-American” breakfast with waffles and eggs. Dad would be laughing and making jokes, mom would be rolling her eyes, and it would be the best breakfast of the year.
It was the one day a year where my dad wouldn’t watch the news. We were all just happy to be alive.
Clean up was never fun, but we did it. We would distract ourselves with some kind of chores before a light lunch. Then, the kids would be sent off to nap, so we could be well rested for the evening (or so the parents could have a break from hyperactive, excited children, however you want to look at it.)
For dinner we would have a barbecue with hamburgers and homemade French fries. My mom would make potato salad, and a red, and blue Jello dish with whipped cream. There may even have been chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for dessert.
Before the last bite of food had been swallowed, the kids would head outside to play with the “daytime” fireworks. We always started with the little Pop-Its, throwing them on the ground at first, then, as siblings do, throwing them at each other.
Smoke balls were my sister’s favorite. We would light the multiple colored spheres, then run away as if they were going to explode. A short cloud of vividly colored smoke would emerge, blanket the whole driveway, then slowly fade away. They always left a rainbow residue on the sidewalk that would stay for a week after.
My favorites were the sparklers. Small metallic sticks that you would hold, light on fire and watch while they emitted a shower of sparks. (No danger there). We would use them to draw our names in the air, then sword fight. It wasn’t a true 4th of July, unless there were multiple burns.
Firecrackers were my brother’s favorite. Well, really anything that exploded. Simple procedure: lay them down on the pavement, light the fuse and run like hell.
The sun would start to go down, and for the next 3-5 hours or so, we would light fireworks. Loud ones that whistled, small ones that would shoot a fountain of sparks, some that were shaped like tanks and had small plastic wheels so they would roll across the pavement. Mom would come and join us for a bit, but after a while, go back inside to comfort the dogs.
Bright flashes and explosions would continue late into the night. When the supply was diminished (or we were too tired to continue – there were THAT many fireworks) we would finally climb into bed, smelling of gunpowder, and pass out from joyous exhaustion.
The next morning would be cleanup. We would pick up and throw away all the wrappers, bottles, and sticks and sweep up the remnants of the explosions the night before.
During the times I wasn’t with my dad, there was “Grangeville Border Days” with my mother. Our days would usually start with a pancake breakfast at the Eagles’ Club.
Afterward, we would venture down to Main Street to see the parade. Depending on where we lived, some years we were able to look out over the balcony and watch, other times we would sit with the audience and collect the salt-water taffy the parade floats would throw.
From the parade, we would always go to the carnival: a collection of rides that coincided with various stages of your stomach being in your throat, but all fun. My mother would buy us a funnel cake, a corn dog, and a couple tickets to ride the rides. The Tilt-o-Whirl – some kind of torturous device where you spin yourself around a table while sitting inside a strawberry, the Zipper – a small compartment that has no sense of which way is up or down, and the Gravitron – a space ship that truly defied gravity, were the most popular.
Once in a while, we would go the rodeo, and watch cowboys ride horses. There was even one year where the kids got to ride sheep.
When it finally got dark, we would drive up to the high school, sit on the field with a blanket and snacks and end the day watching the fireworks explode into the night sky.
It was time to be with family. It was about celebrating how happy we were together, doing something that most of us enjoyed. There wasn’t any arguments, debates or hatred. It was just a day where we were happy, despite the challenges that we faced.