Every August, we’d collect the giant paper bag of illegal fireworks from my Grampa, and set them off, one by one, over the lake (a few feet away from the giant paper bag). I’d get burned by sparklers. I’d fall over logs escaping bottle rockets. My dad would do a funny little trot to avoid getting blown up by the roman candles that he lit. I loved that trot. Even more than the roman candles.
August? Yes. That was when we typically escaped the heat of Saudi Arabia and returned to the U.S. for about a month. The temperatures in Saudi Arabia at that time of year hovered around 120 degrees F and the humidity all but matched that. When I swam at the pool I had a difficult time discerning when I was and wasn’t under water. Washington was frigid by comparison. We dove into ice-cold water that snapped you awake in a heart beat, instead of into the Arabian Gulf, which was only about 10 degrees cooler than the oppressive desert air. Of course, we had missed the Fourth of July, because obviously Saudi Arabia has absolutely no reason to celebrate the Fourth, and to be honest, they’re more than a little on edge when it comes to loud booms.
Some people in America find it odd that we didn’t celebrate this holiday in the Middle East.
I find it odd that some people in America don’t know that the entire world is not American.
The Fourth would arrive, and I would get a little sad. Clapping just wasn’t loud enough. Saying Shel Silverstein’s “the Fourth” poem out loud over and over didn’t appease my desire for partying. As I grew into the late teen years, I heard about some kids going to the military bases on the Fourth. That sounded fun. Hot young soldiers and a party? Wow. That totally trumped watching St. Elmo’s Fire for the 23rd time. I eagerly awaited my invitation. Year. After. Year.
I never was invited.
Not that I was a total social pariah. Not many people were invited to these things, unless they had military ties. But still, I somehow imagined that if I obsessed about it long enough, someone would read my mind and want to ask me along.
Never happened. Also, Johnny Depp still hasn’t called. So, apparently mind reading is not as easy as you would think.
When we finally got back to the states, we blew shit up – like good Americans. So what if it was like August 11th.
We also ate gobs of hot dogs, another sign of a good American.
And then there came a day when I was in the states for the Fourth of July. There were too many people around. There were mosquitos biting me. The fireworks were so loud I started having flashbacks to a war that I never fought in. My heart changed it’s rhythm at least three times in one show.
And then, I got dogs. My dogs quivered in fear. I locked them, and myself, in the basement – turned on the sound machine, played soothing music, and they were still terrified – and I was still trying to not have fictitious flashbacks.
And then, I had a baby.
For two or three weeks before the Fourth of July I became consumed with a hatred far beyond that of any intense PMS. It was the hatred of people who dared to wake my baby. I wanted them killed. I would stone them to death, myself, for having the nerve to enjoy this damn day. I could imagine myself picking them off, one by one, like some mommified version of a slasher film.
I have a neurotically active imagination (and a healthy dose of mental illness in the blood line).
I understand the pretty colors and a dramatic boom, but what’s with the booms that are so loud that my various sphincters shut their doors for business? I can’t fart for at least a day. And by the way, if it gives ME flashbacks (and sphincter issues), what the hell does all that booming and bright flashing do to the minds of the soldiers who were just in a war? Essentially we’re celebrating soldiers by throwing them deep into their own trauma. That doesn’t seem like the best thank you ever. I’m sort of morphing Veterans Day with the Fourth of July, but there is a similar theme. Patriotism. And closing sphincters. I just love the word. What can I say? SSSPPPPPPHHHHHHINCTER!
In my mama bear psychosis I called the cops almost nightly to report illegal fireworks. Karma giggled.
“Really?” she said. “You don’t remember keeping people up in the middle of August? After they’d already survived the real Fourth of July?”
At least I only called the cops. My husband would go to the park, sneak up on the small-minded teens (who are always wearing wife beaters. why is this?) trying to impress their girlfriends by blowing off their own digits, and suddenly shine a flashlight in their faces, booming (almost as loudly as the professional fireworks), “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING OUT HERE?!”
They’d inevitably reply with some intelligent response like, “Dude, we’re just celebrating and having fun, man. Mind your fucking business.”
If you’ve met my husband, you’d know that this is the wrong answer. His voice alone makes people crap themselves, daily. A hot wind of loud words would push their way out of his mouth and up against their pimply teen angst; a warning about fireworks being illegal and how they had woken his baby and that if they didn’t leave, they would probably never be able to make their own babies because all their baby making parts would become a part of that next firework that they shot off. They’d inevitably run and he’d come back home, feeling the pride that only a papa bear can feel when he successfully scares the poo out of people who have bothered his baby girl, people who are at least 25 years younger than him. Man, I bet that caused a giant cluster of new zits on more than one teen.
Obviously, over the past fifteen years I have come to dislike this time of year. When the fireworks were cancelled last year I was ecstatic, knowing that I’d be going to bed early and my dogs would be free from tumultuous bouts of diarrhea. (Weird, when you think about it. Stress seems to loosen their sphincters.) YES! But this year, we’ve had rain. The whole month of May was a drippy mess. That means, you guessed it, FIREWORKS. As I come to accept my fate and the inevitable doggie squirts, I realize that I am being a great big grump about this. This is not the example that I want to set for my daughter. I want her to be excited to make some noise, and to perhaps even be a bit patriotic. I am a struggling-startle response riddled-pathetic example of a patriot (if you haven’t noticed), but her dad is a veteran, so I’m always trying to improve. It’s good to love your country, especially to appreciate all of the freedoms you have. Women in Saudi Arabia are STILL trying to just get the right to DRIVE! Imagine. And that’s just the beginning. They can’t speak their minds without serious ramifications. They can’t wear shorts if it’s 125 degrees. They can’t work in whatever field they want to – a large majority can’t work at all. They DO still have arranged marriages (not everyone…but again, it’s more common than not), and they are often forced into marriage before most of us have started reading the Twilight books. Women are still not entirely equal in this society, that is obvious, but man… we have it SO good by comparison. This country of ours gives us options and choices and even best of all,
oh…and the right to bear explosives that may or may not blow off your own fingers.
I guess it’s time for me to realize what the fireworks represent. It is only one day, and it’s not in August. I will drink beer. I will eat a hot dog (granted, it’ll be a nitrate free turkey dog) on a (whole wheat) bun. I will set off a stink bomb or two – and not the ones that I normally set off – the ones with the putrid colors. I will cheer at the spectacle in the sky. I will thank my lucky stars that my dogs are getting older and can’t hear as well. And, most importantly, I will wear earplugs.