Monday, July 02, 2007

4th of July

It seems strange to have the July 4th holiday right smack in the middle of the week. I imagine that lots of people will take Thursday and Friday off and head for the hills. George and I are going to be quiet and calm. We will cook out on the grill and stay out of the traffic.

Traffic to the Cape and to the Maine Coast can be really brutal and it is best to stay out of it. I never knew about traffic until I moved to Boston. Boston traffic is like that fair haired little girl: "when she is good, she is very very good, but when she is bad, she is horrid!" Holidays tend to bring out the "horrid" around here, and long lines of hot cars going nowhere is the norm.

The best Fourth of Julys were the ones that we celebrated when I was a little girl of six or seven. My brother is eleven years older than me, so he was in highschool and very competent to handle fireworks at just the age when I was ready to enjoy them. My little brother was a baby at this time, so he was just mewing in mom's arms, but I was fascinated with 4th of July fire.

Every year we would go to Albert and Ella's farm near Union City, Oklahoma. They had a small acreage and Albert had cows, chickens and pigs. Ella wore house dresses and took care of the chickens and the cooking. They didn't have any children at home when I was small, so I had the run of the place. My brother taught me how to shoot cans off a fence railing out on their farm, and I spent many Saturday afternoons with him holding the rifle on my shoulder while I tried to aim at the can. It was very exciting. They didn't have an indoor bathroom, but a little old outhouse with the moon cut out on the door, just like the picture books. It was fun and scary to go out there at night and my mom would have to stand on the porch and wait for me. Albert smoked cigars and the living room was a small dark place that had a brass vase on the floor for spitting tobacco and the room smelled funny, so I didn't like to go in there. Their bedroom was separated off the living room with a curtain and was barely big enough for a double bed. They didn't have much money, but I didn't know that at the time.

Anyway, back to the 4th of July. My brother would shoot off the fireworks after dark. We would have our picnic dinner of fried chicken, potato salad and watermelon and then we would all line up our lawn chairs out there on the lawn facing the pasture. The stars were out, the evening was warm, the land is flat and simple, and the lightning bugs were out. My brother rigged up some of the fireworks on the clothes line, and the twirly rings of fire would shoot back and forth along the line to whoops of joy from me. Then he would set off the Roman candles and the big black booming firecrackers and scare everyone with delight. My mom and dad were very cool and let my brother handle the show. He didn't seem to need any advice or warnings, and always had things well in control.

After the big show I got to run around with sparklers, one after another, and chase the lightning bugs with some lightning of my own.

I always remember those long evenings on Albert and Ella's farm. I think of them often. Albert actually fought in World War ONE, and had awful stories of trench warfare. I didn't understand then how unique it is to even KNOW anyone who fought in that war. Ella was round and cuddly and sweet and happy in her little farmhouse. Union City was blown off the map in l973 by a mile-wide tornado that leveled the town the church, the schools, everything. (It has since been rebuilt.)

One time we brought home a kitten from their farm. The kitten was black and white, and I was very excited. In the car, on the way home, we talked about what to name him. Mother said that she had heard it was an Indian custom to name children after the first thing they see. So...I named the kitten Schoolbus...because that was the first thing I saw. That poor cat kept the name Schoolbus, and even today I see black and white cats Schoolbus descendents around the neighborhood near mom's house.

So many fun memories of the 4th of July.

Have a good one!