The 4th of July happens to be my favorite holiday. The sole purpose of the day is to celebrate, which means having fun. No presents to wrap, no services to attend, no relatives you must see, no brunches…just friends, food, beer, flags and fireworks. I fell in love with the holiday as a kid when I went to my first fireworks show. I remember the warm summer air, running around a grassy area in bare feet with what seemed like a thousand kids, which probably was more like twenty. Parents for some reason let all the children off their leashes on this day to explore and have fun with all the other kids. The day was spent swimming all afternoon in a pool, lake, ocean, or even the classic Toys ‘R Us plastic pool. Squirt guns were always an essential toy to have on this day although compared to today’s water blasters they seem very chinsy. The old squirt guns were the size of a small pistol with one hole to fill them up and it took an eternity. You would have to submerge the gun underwater until the bubbles stopped coming up. Then it was full and you got maybe 10 shots of a measly spray to try to get your friends wet. It seemed fun at the time but nowadays kids use the long tube blasters which can drench your enemy with one pump. It’s like a revolutionary war musket compared to robo-cop machine gun. The bar-b-que was already running hot with coals and meat was the choice of the day. Fourth of July was not created for vegetarians. By evening your eyes were blood red from the chlorine in the pool and your face and shoulders the same shade due to the sun. Is it ever not sunny on the Fourth? Not in my memories. The evening would roll around but it was still light outside, only the temperature had dropped a few degrees and the parents had let all their guards down. After a second feeding of hamburgers and ribs the children would usually be back in the pool while the adults continued to drink their beer and wine. Without fail one of the dads would allow each kid to take a sip from his beer and it always tasted terrible. Eventually the sun would begin to set and with the first sign of darkness we would beg our parents to let us light the sparklers that had been under protective care all day. These sparklers were the real deal when I was young, made out of sulfur, charcoal, and aluminum and capable of burning off a child’s clothes in seconds, not the sissy safe and sane paper sparklers used today. Of course we were told to be careful after each one was lit, which we were around the parents, but left alone the sparklers could be very intimidating as you chased your friends around with sparks flying everywhere including your own face. It was also mandatory that you would try to spell your name with a sparkler. As darkness came so did the big show…fireworks. What could be better than laying back on a blanket on soft grass and watch fireworks go off overhead, that is the best. A moment in time that you wish would never end. People would oooh and ahh with each new burst of colors lighting up the night’s sky. The occasional white blast with a sonic boom would shake everyone up and an occasional dud would be standard. The big thrill came at the end when a barrage of fireworks would turn the sky into a multitude of blazing colors, it was incredible to watch as a child. The only sad part about the grand finale was that it meant the end to the fireworks, why can’t it just go all night long?
Fourth of July hasn’t changed much since being a kid. It’s been fun as a parent to see the excitement in my children’s eyes as they experienced the same festivities as I had. When we finally moved in to a house with a swimming pool we were able to host our own Fourth of July party which continued every year until our most recent move and the children had moved away. Now I have to wait for grandchildren to experience the same magic with and I’m sure it will still center around friends, family, swimming, patriotism, meat and the grand finale of fireworks. Happy Birthday America!