Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July with The Safety Queen

Almost every year for the last dozen, there has been a fireworks display set off in the street in front of our house. The across-the-street neighbor lights them up, his wife lines them up in order of appearance, varying the size and bang-for-your-buck quality to give a good show. Lately their teenage son has taken part in lighting them up, he and his father keeping things hopping for about an hour before the show is over and the pyrotechnical remnants are dumped in water and the street is swept of all flammable debris.

We do the sweeping, because we don't do fire. The Safety Queen response to in city fireworks is to set up the kids in our extremely steep driveway, a virtual stadium seating arrangement where snacks are consumed, blankets and chairs are set off, and the audience cheers, claps and says "Oooh!" at the appropriate moments.

Fortunately, the other lesbians moms across the way second this Safety Queen restriction and plant themselves and their daughter in the driveway to "Oooh", "Aaaah" and supervise with us.

While the father across the way has questioned our choice to keep fireworks, open flame and the tradition of blowing off your fingers for Fourth of July out of our family, we stick with it. People need fingers. Encouraging young men to light firecrackers off like bombs just doesn't seem to send the right message--though I admire the brilliant children's writer and illustrator, William Joyce (Dinosaur Bob, George Shrinks, The Leaf Men, Santa Calls, Rolie Polie Olie, and the book that Meet the Robinsons was based on--A Day With Wilbur Robinson), for his annual Fourth of July tradition, in which the whole neighborhood builds an elaborate Busby Berkeley display of toy soldiers, flags and patriotic paraphrenalia, imbeds hundreds of small firecrackers in the display, and then lights it to the delight of all and destruction of their efforts. For photos of this, see his book The World of William Joyce. For further proof of his genius, he is the artist behind the movie Robots and Buddy. He is one of the greatest illustrators of all time.

But back to fireworks--we don't even allow sparklers. Why we don't allow them is amply explained in my article and they simply weren't part of my childhood (having spent most of it in Canada where Fourth of July is a no-go). My wife, with a sigh, agrees with this restriction, having wonderful memories of writing naughty words in the air with brilliantly lit, flaming metal wands.

So Fourth of July will go like this: sleep in, eat, water fight outside, eat, pick up friends from train station (best friend from high school and her two teenage kids), go swimming, eat some more, run around outside, eat ice cream, watch a family movie, watch fireworks while devouring cherries or watermelon, sweep up the debris, wish all a good night, and go to bed. Ahhh, happy independence from work day.

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