Fourth of July – 1989

Written by  //  July 10, 2011  //  MEMORIES  //  No comments


I was 3 ½ years old. This was the first Fourth of July that I remember. I’m sure I had no understanding of the unparalleled bursts of joy and happiness that were going to be unleashed that evening. And so it was by quite innocent circumstances that, sometime during the afternoon, I discovered a giant box of three-foot-long sparklers on the bottom shelf of the dining room bookcase. My older brother Roy, who was old enough to have a job and some spending cash, had purchased these little flammable intricacies along with a whole mess of other Fourth of July firework goodies: bottle rockets, roman candles, and so forth.

That night, the fun began!

As the sun was just starting to go down, someone busted out some colored smoke balls – a firework that would become one of my favorites throughout the years. I remember dancing around like a little half-sized pagan, twirling through the smoke – purple, blue, green, yellow, and one a sort of orange-ish-red. I probably inhaled a bit too much, but rainbow-colored lung damage is more magical than alarming.

Next came the sparklers, which, being my first, seemed more bright and striking than ever since. I was delighted to be shown by my older brother Preston that one could swish around the sparklers with great dexterity and produce what seemed to be quickly vanishing letters and numbers. “Spell your name!” he said. I’m sure I just wiggled my sparkler around vigorously with my stubby little arm, hoping that letters would coincidentally appear.

It was time for a break and maybe a drink back in the house, but the action continued upstairs. I have recollections of bottle rockets being shot out of one of our second story bedroom windows. My brothers had fashioned a launching station out of a cardboard box. They cut notches into the lip of the box to hold the stems of the rockets in at an angle, while they lit them. Even at 3 ½ I could tell that this was exciting, reckless, and undeniably awesome!

By this point, Fourth of July was easily surpassing Christmas at the top of my Favorite Holidays list… but the fun (and the unforgettable, searing pain) was just about to begin.

I went back outside and was intrigued to be offered a firework for my very own: a friendship pagoda!

If you’re not familiar with this little gem, it’s quite a riot! It starts out as a little six-side house with side-ways rocket-packs all around its base. You light the fuse and the rockets go off two at a time, each in an opposing direction. This causes the house to spin on a little plastic nub that’s affixed to the bottom.

Spin, spin, spin… but then the magic really begins!!! The flames sliced away little cords that, unbeknownst to me, had been keeping the five-story pagoda from popping up via an intricate rubber band system. Like an architectural version of a Russian nesting doll, up popped the many levels of the pagoda, one at a time.

My 3 ½ year old little mind was blown.

The flames stopped, I rushed to the pagoda and, without thinking twice, picked it up from its base with my little hand.

The pain was excruciating. Apparently, cardboard can get pretty hot without bursting into flames, which I didn’t know then and certainly know now. I’m not quite sure, but I remember keeping the pain to myself, as to not spoil the general excitement of the moment.

In any case, what did it matter?

The pagoda was mine!

I kept it for weeks. It smelt of smoke and stunk up my room.


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