Growing up, I didn’t know we held such an esteemed celebration. We celebrated like most families, buying an assorted budgeted box of fireworks. Usually a Whistling Pete was in there, some cone thing, a handful of snakes, and box of sparklers.
We’d usually get around the first of July and it would sit on the dryer waiting three long days to be opened. My sisters and I tried to coerce my parents to let us light them early. And they never—not even a sparkler—went for it.
When the Fourth finally arrived, we’d have a picnic up at Aunt Marge’s—the matriarch of our family. She and her husband were the first ones to migrate from Pennsylvania in the twenties to Washington. Her sister, Clara—my great grandmother—and her husband followed soon after with their four children, including my grandmother.
Anyway, we’d have a family picnic in Aunt Marge’s day room—you never knew if it was going to be rainy or sunny—even on the Fourth. We’d play games in her yard and then as dusk began to fall, we’d move on down to our house for the family fireworks. We were sandwiched between Aunt Marge and our grandparents.
After Dad blew through our meager supply of fireworks, Grandpa would usually surprise us with a few—usually a bigger cone-style one was included and another Whistling Pete or two . And then we’d move down to Grandma and Grandpa’s and climb a ladder to sit on their roof where we could see over the tops of the acres of filbert trees and watch the firework show that blasted the air from Fort Vancouver.
Apparently in the 1970’s, sitting on the roof wasn’t considered dangerous. Go figure. And it wasn’t even like my grandparents had a great house—it was a cement block
hut. But we’d sit, stretched out along the long side of the house and swatting
at the feasting mosquitoes. And then as dark fell, the sky lit up with the
biggest and brightest fireworks we’d ever seen.
We didn’t have always have the best selection in our own backyard, but what we had made rich memories.