Sunday, July 5, 2009
When I was growing up, we spent many Fourths of July at my grandparents' lakehouse. Situated in a cluster of other houses, and some distance from the water's edge, it was among a tidy little community of summer dwellers.
My grandparents' lakehouse was basically one large room that was divided into living areas through the strategic placement of furniture. It had a style that was unique and eclectic, part nautical, part British, part garage sale. My grandparents, to be frugal and creative, had carpeted the entire space in samples. I'm not sure if there were two squares that were the same color, something my sister and I delighted in exploring. The place was never anything but spotless, but it had the air of a space that wasn't used often. It's been twenty years since I last set foot in there and I can smell it still.
Each year, everyone from their little lake community would throw in some money or fireworks and they would put on a big display. Unrestricted by city ordinances, they shot them off right in the middle of everything. Probably not the safest, but it made for one hell of a show. As we sat on lawn chairs or blankets, oohing and aahing at the bursts of light, the smoke would wash over us, filling our noses with that sulfuric odor.
Before we went to bed, we would all lay out on lawn chairs and look up at the sky. Removed from the city, under that big Kansas sky, you could see galaxy after galaxy full of stars. We would search for satellites, those slow moving pinpricks of light, bringing up conversations of the vastness of space and our little place in it.
To this day, when I think of my childhood Fourths of July, it is those experiences that call to me. It is because of them that I love fireworks. The big booms that come seconds after the explosion, the little pops, the zingers, the whistles, the hisses, and of course that smoky smell.
We introduced Sophie to the little ones this year. Just the stuff that we could legally (I think) fire off in our backyard. I had worried that she would be scared by the sounds and smell but at the end of our little fireworks show, she clapped. Spontaneously and unprovoked. Watching her renewed my own sense of awe at these wonders.
I hope that we can build on the emotion of those old traditions to create our own.