Surviving Independence Day as a kidJun 28, 2022 11:26AM ● By Michael Murphy
I can tell it’s July without glancing at the calendar because it’s so hot that my dog turns the fan onto herself every time I leave the room to refill my ice cream cone.
Around the Fourth of July is when folks of my generation reminisce about how much hotter it was when we were kids. But the truth is it just seemed hotter because air conditioning had not yet been invented. All we had back then to cool the house were those fans with three black steel blades protected by a cage which we kids constantly tried to stick our fingers through to “see what would happen.”
July 4 always brings back fond childhood memories of near disasters involving sparkler sword fights and firecrackers blowing tin cans sky high just as I bent over them to check the fuse.
Where I grew up in the Midwest, fireworks stands were set up in a clandestine location a short drive outside city limits. Customers wore those phony nose and glasses to avoid being identified since the legality of fireworks was highly questionable.
Back then, firecracker shoppers had basically six choices: Lady Fingers, Black Cats, Cherry Bombs, M-80s and Silver Salutes. Oh, and sparklers and snakes for the less adventurous—the kids who now as seniors have much better hearing than the rest of us.
Today kids have an endless selection of fireworks to pick from with much more descriptive names such as Airotica, Heartstoppers, Molten Fury and my favorite, Baby Boomers.
In addition to fireworks, there was the obligatory picnic that families attended—the one where Uncle Marv thought it was a barrel of laughs to throw lit firecrackers at the children and dogs. Thankfully, Grandma would put a sudden end to the insanity by bopping Marv over the head with her umbrella.
I never understood why people looked forward to bellying up to a picnic table where you spent half of your time trying to hang onto napkins, paper plates and potato chips to keep them from flying away on the sweltering hot breeze. The rest of the time, you are combating flies, bees and an army of ants which magically emerged once someone sliced open the watermelon.
As a kid, I was always leery of watermelon seeds and wondered if an ugly creature would pop out of my stomach if I accidentally swallowed one.
Then there was the giant mutant fly that attempted to sail into your mouth with each bite of corn, which is the only vegetable that remains completely lodged between your teeth after you’ve finished eating it, so that with every smile, you look like you just stepped off the set of “Hee Haw.”
While we waited on the food to be ready, we kids would play with a Frisbee which no one could throw correctly and no one could catch. We just ran around aimlessly for 10 minutes until the toy mercifully got stuck high up in a tree. That led to killing more time throwing rocks, sticks and empty bottles at the lodged Frisbee until Uncle Marv threw a large firecracker in a futile attempt to blow the Frisbee out of the tree.
Ah, yes, celebrating the Fourth of July today just isn’t the same as it was during my childhood. I think I’ll go light a sparkler to celebrate that fact.