I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as an Independence Day Grinch, but I’m very close to being one.
The 4th of July is a holiday that in its simplest form is meant to celebrate the historical aspects of independence, but like most holidays it has evolved into something else. For some, it’s all about long weekends and family time, and getting out and enjoying Summer. For others, it’s a chance to kick up their heels a little with parties and fireworks.
For about a zillion years, the Boston Pops has presented Independence Day extravaganzas — extended concerts and spectacular celebrations that have also become a regular TV event. It’s always an enjoyable musical treat and one that never fails to stir the emotions, especially when they perform their traditional show-stopper, Sousa’s “Stars And Stripes Forever.”
But it’s also about then that I turn into the Independence Day Grinch, because some of our neighbors get a little carried away with the fireworks. I can handle the annoyingly repetitive reports of the firecrackers, but I do worry when they set off rockets — especially if the weather has been dry. Brush fires are a real danger and even if we dodge that bullet, who wants fiery rockets coming down on their roof? Grumble, grumble, grumble . . . well, you get the idea.
Of course, I wasn’t always a Grinch. When I was a kid it wasn’t nearly as easy to get fireworks for personal use and that somehow made it extra fun. I lived in state that didn’t allow them, but when we’d go visit my maternal grandparents we crossed the state line and things changed. My young uncle (the subject of a recent post) and I would jump into his jalopy and drive to a nearby small town, where fireworks were openly and legally sold in several places.
I can still remember how thrilled I felt to be able to look over all the forbidden fruit, trying to add up in my mind the best way to spend my limited funds. I would mostly lean toward firecrackers, which offered more bang for the buck than some of the more exotic items, and I definitely avoided sissy things like sparklers and snakes. I also knew that it didn’t make much sense to buy giant firecrackers, not only because they cost more but also because they’d be confiscated by my mom.
Later that evening, we’d have a ball setting off our various explosive devices. My uncle, who’d usually bought a few of the bigger firecrackers since my Mom – his sister – had no authority over him, was a lot more daring than me. He’d even hold on to the tiniest firecrackers – we called them ladyfingers – when they went off.
When the holiday was over and we drove back to our home in the fireworks-free zone, I’d always have a few leftover firecrackers, which I would then hoard and brag about to my friends. The funny thing is that the longer I kept them the more duds I had. Either they aged badly or the humidity got them — or maybe I had my own Grinch.