Oh, Independence Day... the memories! It's weird to me now. Living in NYC... the concrete jungle... Here on Roosevelt Island, it's the closest thing I have to obtaining something similar to what the 4th of July was to us in upstate NY. I have early memories of my parents taking us to a fireworks display at the river; however, what I remember most is cowering in the back of the Pinto station wagon, terrified of the loud bangs and booms. My big brother telling me that it was "just like a big thunderstorm" did NOT seem to help.
Most of the time, though, we lit off our own fireworks in the neighborhood.. Dad often went down South for training for work, and he usually brought back a load of bottle rockets, jumping jacks and sparklers. It didn't matter that we lived next door to an army base, or that a deputy sheriff lived across the street-- Dad always provided us with a show. Looking back now, the best part of the show was really my dad. He was pretty strict when we were young... I keep telling my friends that this rosy-cheeked wise-cracker is NOT the man I grew up with! ... Most of the time, we pretty much knew our place and knew not to get out of line. So, when the 4th came around, it was our chance to see him really break out. He'd start by letting us hold sparklers as dusk was falling. By nighttime, the neighbors were gathered with us on the sidewalk, and Dad would set up camp in the street. He'd giggle to himself with delight at his displays as we applauded and ooo'ed and ahhh'ed. The best part was when a car would turn down the street -- he'd stand up and, in a faux-non-chalant sort of way, he'd stroll around the launchpad and back to the sidewalk, whistling while winking at us kids and my mom. The vision of watching him scoot away after lighting a firework still makes me laugh... it's one of the few times we ever see Dad run.
As I got older, into my teens, some of my cousins got driver's licenses and cars to use on the 4th. We'd pile in and head over across town to the big display at Highland Park. We were really smart about our placement, and I no longer cowered in the back. Instead of joining the throngs of people down inside the grove, we'd park the car way up on the hill in the McDonald's parking lot. We'd turn the radio to listen to the accompanying music (although one of us would generally protest the whole radio thing, saying that it'd drain the car battery and then we'd REALLY be in trouble). We'd lie out on the warm hoods with shakes and fries, acting cool and giggling at the people around us and each other. That was freedom in a small town.
Now, living in NYC, sitting here on Roosevelt Island, I am at that level
of giddiness and remembering what summer smells, tastes, feels like. It's
ungodly humid, as July should be, and the smell of bugspray and Coppertone
mixes and mingles with scents of barbecue (a rare treat of a city girl).
There's a steel drum band playing down the way, and Deb is hooking us
up with hot dogs -- I never eat them anymore, but this is an occasion!
-- and maybe even some cotton candy. Tourists are admiring the Manhattan
skyline, which is perfectly distant to me. Little kids tug at their parents
and each other. I'm back on the sidewalk, I'm in the Pinto, I'm up on
the hill, sucking on a shake and applauding for my dad's fireworks.
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