Each Independence Day follows a certain ritual. My honey-bunny and I wake up, get dressed and go downtown to peruse our little town’s annual Fourth of July parade. The giant bull, the local arts camp’s musical number, infinite horses ridden by rodeo queens and cowboys, the old stagecoach, the convertible or pickup truck from the local dealer, and the high school band all pass us by as we cheer and avoid being pelted with hard candy. Next, home for lunch and a short nap before the evening’s activities. Tux, our border collie, hides when he hears the first firework. Usually we have a cookout or just go to one where we ingest large quantities of hamburgers, corn on the cob and cream pie, all washed down with some sort of alcoholic beverage. The sun sets, and the town’s firework display begins. Following the municipal display, we head home to comfort our trembling dog until all the fireworks in town stop – usually sometime between 2AM and the end of the summer.
To prepare our border collie for his upcoming ordeal, we try several tactics. In the beginning, we attempt to just ignore the fireworks in a futile attempt to convince him that they won’t harm him. After the six bazillionth time of dragging him out of his hiding place, we decide that the best thing is just to help him hide by covering him with towels in the closet. He finds those attentions annoying, ditches the towels and hides in the shower or under our bed. At that point, we close the shower curtain and hope his hair won’t clog the drain or sigh as we watch his butt disappear from view. Nothing seems to help the poor boy, and we always find him late in the evening, trembling in his chosen location, looking up at us with pathetic eyes pleading with us to make the noises stop.
Last February, after fourteen wonderful years, we finally had to say goodbye to our sweet Tux. His death brought us a profound grief which we still are barely concealing from our friends and neighbors. However, in our practical optimism, we have finally found our silver lining for this sad situation. I should amend that lining from silver to sparkly gold, red, green and blue.
Oh yes, the fireworks are coming back to our house.
This year, on our way home from our vacation, we stayed a while in Evanston, Wyoming to purchase fireworks. I hadn’t been in a fireworks store or even at a fireworks stand since I was in high school – maybe even elementary school. Even then, I had never seen anything like this. The fireworks store was cool and smelled of sulphur. Concrete floors and bare metal shelving reminded me of a warehouse store, but of course, this place was much, much smaller. Shelves with stacked palettes of shrink-wrapped fireworks lined the sides and center of the large room. Firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, and fountains with names like Delirium and Patriotic Fantasy decked these halls. Everything from sparklers to artillery shells shone in brightly colored boxes promising wilder colors, higher loft and louder bangs.
Steph’s eyes widened and her breathing became shallow as she entered her nirvana. “Okay, let’s check it out,” she said in a husky voice.
Uh-oh. I knew she liked fireworks, but I never actually realized how much she gave up for our Tux.
Now, certain fireworks are illegal in Colorado and, for the benefit of any peace officers in my audience, I would like to emphasize that we bought nothing that was illegal. Really. That we have been caught with. Yet.
We cruised up and down the aisles, first thinking that we could simply carry our purchases in our arms, changing to the little hand basket halfway through the store, and then finally graduating to the full sized shopping cart. Steph picked out roman candles, bottle rockets, fountains and firecrackers while I grabbed sparklers, party poppers, worms, and little fantasy fireworks shaped like chickens and bees.
When we arrived home, we were relating this story to our neighbors who reminisced about getting high and watching those worms burn. And me, a member of the “ Just Say No” generation.
Anyway, being the only ones in the store aside from the two teenage girls working the register (it was only late May at that point), we finally began asking questions when we arrived at the checkout counter.
“How is this fountain?”
“It’s our best one.”
“Are these three foot long sparklers really good?”
“Are these fireworks the bangiest?”
Bangiest? Did she just say bangiest?
“No. You want the ladyfingers.” I watched the taller brunette circle the counter, pluck the firecrackers from Steph’s hand and deftly snatch the other packet from the cart, ending up with both held between two fingers in a most disapproving grasp.
Wow. I guess they really weren’t the bangiest.
Brunette girl tilted her head in the direction of the firecrackers and led Steph away while I stayed to oversee her redhaired compatriot ring in our purchases. At the firecracker shelf, brunette girl tossed the rejects back into their place and picked up the infamous ladyfingers. “Three of these will blow up a toilet.”
“And they work underwater.”
They must have extra security in the bathrooms at the Evanston, Wyoming school district. Steph grabbed two packets and headed back to the front as quickly as she could without feeling she was losing coolness points with either of the teenagers running the place.
We spent $191.62 on fireworks.
In Steph’s defense, it had been almost fifteen years.
In my defense, it was “buy one, get one free” on everything in the store. I’m quite the bargain hunter.
So, this year, following the municipal firework display, we scooted down to the elementary school near our house with Steph’s 12 year old boy cousin in tow and set off quite a few fireworks. They buzzed and popped and whizzed and fizzed. They traveled quite far into the air and exploded with trails of hot ash floating behind. They flared and fountained. Meanwhile, this young fellow’s face glowed with happiness in the brief flashes of light as he learned how to correctly ignite fuses with a punk from a forty-seven year old woman coming back into her own.
One day, we’ll own another dog. But I realize this now.
He’ll have to love fireworks.
Back in 2006, when I wrote this piece, we had just survived the horrible year of 2005 (my sweetie’s motto? “I survived two-thousand-five”). When Cappy came along in 2007, he absolutely filled the bill. I don’t know that he liked fireworks, but when they went off, he would bark at them. We continued to play with them until this year. During the move, my sweetie gave her entire arsenal away and hasn’t replaced it as yet. She insists she doesn’t miss blowing things up.
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