(Memories from Gail’s daughter, Virginia)
The boom of fireworks drew me outside. In the distance, through the trees, I glimpsed a burst of light in the sky. Two days before the 4th of July and apparently, people have money to burn.
Long ago, we celebrated the holiday in a modest way on the farm in Kansas. At the fireworks stand, we selected pinwheels, snakes, sparklers, bottle rockets, and ladyfingers. These were considered fairly safe for school-age children. They carried more lethal and more expensive fireworks like cherry bombs, but we never bought those.
We lighted a punk, and used that to set off the small firecrackers called ladyfingers. We were cautioned not to light them while holding the tiny cracker in our fingers. So we placed it on the ground and lit the short fuse with our smoldering punk, then we leaped backwards to wait for the explosion. Later, we gathered the scraps of paper left from the ladyfingers. We marveled at the Chinese characters printed on the small bits remaining.
The snake required a match to start it. The small charcoal-colored button extruded a long dark, curving ash as it burned. That was the “snake.”
Pinwheels required nailing to a post or tree. Once the fuse was lit, it whirled in a circular pattern, spitting fire. It was done in just seconds.
I gathered my memories into a poem.
Kansas 4th of July
Hand-cranked ice cream — taking forever to be ready.
Lemonade, corn on the cob, and hot, hot days.
The sputter of small firecrackers and swish of pinwheels.
Setting the dry grass on fire in our backyard.
Creating fiery circles in the dusk with a sparkler in my hand.
Dad shooting Roman candles across an open field.
I remember long ago July fourths,
The sparkler is as bright as ever.