faux contraband out of paper.
Our replicas impersonated, roughly, not only the products but their packaging...boxes for the sparklers, Vesuvius-like cones, firecrackers - which nobody sold legally but many smuggled from Mexico or bought in Chinatown - and unidentified ordnance with string or paper fuses. Patriotic-appearing crafts kept us as busy as we wanted to be through the daylight hours. If we ran out of red or white or blue paper, there were always crayons. We turned out a colorful line.
There were years when, hose and water bucket at the ready, we got to light those charcoalish worms on the driveway or wave sparklers without much gusto behind a hedge. One holiday we did drive to the carnival-garish stand in a reckless, nearby town where we bought the BIG assortment and took it to the grandparents' farm later in the summer to see what we'd been missing. We had hoped for great boomings and things flying into bits. We got whistling and fizzing and spinning. No bang. Still...
Our holiday crafting completed, as dusk settled we sat crossed-legged on the sidewalk at the end of our driveway. Our house faced south and we positioned ourselves on the still-warm cement to look north, over the Chinese elm in the yard, to the display put on at the country club, five blocks further uphill. The shimmering rain seemed so close, the cannon sound thumped in our chests.
To this day, towns with picnics, bicycle parades, watermelon seed spitting contests and retriever-sized dogs wearing red bandanas seem like the 4th of July as presented by Norman Rockwell or Hollywood; I am as removed from them as any fiction. Subdued fun is still fun after a fashion; it is what we knew. I feel uncomfortable in the midst of too much hilarity, too many group endeavors, organized good times...games at baby and bridal showers, I simply shudder. Some of us participate, some of us observe. Over these 65 years, there have been high-wire moments beyond my control which I'd happily delete from my timeline. As July 4 peels off the calendar, I'll strike an imaginary match and lob make-believe cherry bombs from our second floor windows. Then I'll meet you where the watermelons are being sliced.