In Remembrance of the 4th of July

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Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting on the Fourth of July.  Ava seems to enjoy the celebration more and more with each passing year. This year, I tried to explain what all the hoopla was about… and subsequently realized that I need a refresher in American history.

“The holiday celebrates the birth of our country,” I said.

“But how does he know it’s his birthday?” Ava asked.

“Our country isn’t a person. It’s a place.”

“Then, how can it have a birthday?”

It only got worse from there. See, in Ava’s mind, we live in a global village. Seemingly arbitrary boundaries don’t make sense. For example, drawing a line in the ground between the monkey bars and the teeter-totter doesn’t hold much water in a 5-year-old’s mind. “Home” is a little red house at the end of a cul-de-sac; anything bigger than that is simply outer space.

So, I did what any professor backed into a corner would do:  I redirected.

“We get to have fireworks, and fireworks are awesome!”

“And snakes too?!”

Ava adores those black sulfur-smelling pellets that grow into smoldering tubes of ash. Ray shelled out $5 to the Kiwanis fireworks stand. Back in the day when we bought illegal fireworks on the Reservation, a $5 box of fireworks would get your hand blown off.

Growing up, I learned to respect explosives. Unfortunately, I garnered this information by watching my father make a number of potentially fatal (or at least dismembering) errors. Rules like alcohol and fireworks don’t mix (because, you know, alcohol is flammable), and what goes up must come down (…at the same velocity) have really helped me out over the years.

My ample experience with explosives should have better prepared me for last week, but I think it just made me cocky. And subsequently, stupid.

Ava and I were cuddled up on a bench about 5-feet from where my husband placed little bombs into a tube and lit them, launching them at 200 mph into a beautiful spray of light. I figured we had the best seats in the house until I remembered the time my dad ignited a 100-shot firework ON ITS SIDE. Screeching red rockets chased my sister and me like a swarm of angry hornets.  Mom wouldn’t talk to Dad until the welts on our arms healed.

So, Ava and I moved to safety. From our perch, I watched the fireworks display while she danced with a flashlight. Five hundred dollars worth of explosives, and my kid prefers a AA battery-operated mini-light.  I guess I should count myself lucky that she doesn’t want to fire a rocket from between her teeth “just to see.”

Unlike Dad, my husband — a.k.a. Captain America — is all about safety. He won’t hold a roman candle in his hand just because there’s a sticker on it that says, “Do not hold.”

“We need to keep a bucket of water nearby,” he explained. “Just in case.”

We shoot fireworks off the dock at his parents’ house. “In case the lake dries up?”

Inevitably, something went wrong. An errant rocket ignited a multi-shot brick that sat on the top of our 2-ton stack of unlit fireworks. Everyone screamed. Captain American froze. But the girl who has grown up dodging death in the form of an over-sized, non-regulation sparkler (if you’re paying attention, you’ll know that’s me) came to the rescue. I snatched the firing brick from the top of the stack and placed it a safe distance away.

I saved the Fourth of July. Or so I thought. It took all night to set off those fireworks. We eventually had to stop because the sun was coming up. Ava was so exhausted, she cried herself to sleep. We could’ve enjoyed one fantastic minute of explosive beauty. Instead, we endured six hours of active labor.

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