My kids have never really been into the whole fireworks thing. We’ve gone to some big shows, staged some much smaller ones on our own, and even skipped a 4th of July show because of lack of interest. As such, the 4th is really just a chance to get together with family and enjoy a day off.
But recalling it now, my own youth is dotted with the 4th of July as having various touch points as I grew up.
When I was little, my family and I would pack a couple of blankets into the car and head off to the State Fairgrounds to watch their shows. It was there one year that my mom had a hot shard of metal land in her hair. No major harm done, though.
By the time I was 10 or 12, the 4th of July was my time to head down to the plot of land my grandparents had on the Zumbro River north of Rochester and spend a week with them. I was assigned the task of helping my grandfather mow the pasture in preparation for a church picnic on the grounds.
My grandfather had two riding mowers, so we’d go along just slightly offset, following the walking paths, and clearing out the larger open space down near the river below the house. A few times, we’d also mow the large hill that lead from that space up to where the house sat–grandpa would tie a rope to the mower and the other end around his waist, and as he held a walk-behind mower, I’d slowly lower him down the hill and then pull him back up. Somehow, that seemed like a good idea at the time…
The highlight of that week was always the softball game after the lunch finished at the picnic. Somehow, we divided into two teams and played some really fun games, one of which featured me hitting a hard home run grounder into the taller grass out in right field. By the time they found the ball, I was already past third base.
A couple of times, we headed into the nearest town, Mazeppa, Minnesota, to watch their fireworks show. It was, as I’d learn later in life, what one comes to expect from a small town–not big, not choreographed, but a good way to spend 20 minutes with the townsfolk.
After those years, I helped my girlfriends family with their fireworks business in northern Wisconsin. Frankly, it was an experience I hated, but obligations being what they are, I did it anyway. To this day, though, I know more about fireworks than I really care to.
I have no idea if we’ll watch a show this weekend. I can’t say I really care one way or the other. But it’s good to recall how they and the holiday have played a part in my life.