This is the fourth section from the fourth chapter. All other excerpts are on the sidebar, lower right.
Youï¿½d wake up early because you had to, because you couldnï¿½t sleep, because already you could hear them going off all around the neighborhood, and you knew you had to be a part of it. So Iï¿½d wake Allen and the girls, and weï¿½d go running downstairs and open the Times, and cut out the ads that told us which tents were having sales, since Dad wouldnï¿½t buy anything if it wasnï¿½t on sale.
Heï¿½d be in the kitchen sipping coffee. Mom would be baking pies, and out on the patio you could hear the ice cream maker churning. Iï¿½d go running in and say letï¿½s go letï¿½s go. Heï¿½d lower his cup and look at me and say arenï¿½t you forgetting something? Then Iï¿½d remember, and heï¿½d follow me to the hall closet, and Iï¿½d bring it out on itï¿½s staff, tightly furled, then carry it outside, he following behind saying donï¿½t let it touch the ground now. Iï¿½d put it in the bracket that was screwed to the side of the house, and unfurl it, and weï¿½d all stand there looking at it: the blue, red and white. Then weï¿½d go.
In the Pontiac heï¿½d take us down State Line, to where the tents were lined up, and weï¿½d walk through each of themï¿½the smell of canvas, the trampled grass, the smell of dew and gunpowderï¿½buying Black Cats and bottle rockets and cones and Roman candles.
By the time we got home Seth and Keith would already be down at the creek, blowing up toy battle ships and army men, and once with M-80s blowing an upended trash can twenty feet in the air. Weï¿½d blow up things with them too until Stephanie or Jean came down and said it was time to go. Then with the tub of ice cream, and the cakes and pies, weï¿½d drive to Lake Quivira, to our cousinsï¿½ house on the water there, where at waterï¿½s edge my cousin Chip would be blowing up toy battleships and army men. Allen and I would blow them up with him.
Later my uncle Ralph would say who wants to ski, and weï¿½d go out with him in the Crisscraft, and Chip would ski expertly, and I wouldnï¿½t. After maybe seven tries though Iï¿½d finally get up on the skis, and be scudding along behind the boat, then see Mom on the beach watching, and let go with one hand to wave, losing it and slamming down face forward and getting a mouthful of water. Uncle Ralph would bring the boat puttering back around and say, ï¿½Want to try again?ï¿½
ï¿½You going to wave this time?ï¿½
Later weï¿½d sit at the picnic tables on the beach, and eat the barbecued chicken and potato salad and roasted corn, and the men would drink Falstaffs, and the women wine, and weï¿½d show the adults when our paper plates were clean, and Mom would finally take the lid off the ice cream tub, and weï¿½d dish it up and stuff ourselves.
Later weï¿½d be back at it with the Black Cats, blowing them up in strings now, dusk falling, the bottle rockets going off, Roman candles, sparklers and cones. Finally by ten weï¿½d exhaust our supply, and gather on blankets facing the clubhouse across the water, and watch as the display was set offï¿½the huge rockets, shells and stars. Iï¿½d lie back and watch until I couldnï¿½t watch anymore, and with my head on Momï¿½s lap Iï¿½d sleep, and hear it all from a distance, and the oohing and aahing, until at eleven Stephanie and Jean and Chip would wake me and say, ï¿½Wow, man, you should have seen it. When it was over they sent up a rocket that said THE END.ï¿½
ï¿½Yeah. In big letters about a hundred feet high.ï¿½
ï¿½No they didnï¿½t. They canï¿½t do that. Can they? Can they, Mom?ï¿½
Very late weï¿½d load the car and say goodbye, and Uncle Ralph would hug me and call me tiger, and Aunt Sally would hug me too, and weï¿½d drive along the shore and through the big gates and past the main line of the Santa Fe, then up into the hills through Shawnee and on toward home, and I wouldnï¿½t know anything until I heard a car door open, and felt Dad sling me over his shoulder, and was carried to bed.
In the morning the neighborhood would be quiet, except for the occasional renegade outburst, but mainly quiet, with the veil of smoke and spent fireworks, and Iï¿½d go to Sethï¿½s to swim, and weï¿½d sit around sadly because it would be a whole year before the next one, and we didnï¿½t believe we could wait a year. But we would.
The summers often had that magic. Mom and Dad saw to it that they did. Iï¿½ve since tried to do the same for my own children. I hope Iï¿½ve done as well.