When I think about spending holidays with my family, Fourth of July stands out most prominently in my mind. That and the year that I almost set my grandparents’ house on fire.
My parents divorced when I was young, so growing up, I traded off Thanksgiving and Christmas with different sides of the family. Traditions varied on whether I was with Mom or Dad, Killeens or Endacotts.
But Fourth of July was the same every year.
I spent summers with Dad and on Fourth of July I always went to my grandparents house with my dad, older brother and older sister. We had dinner and shot off fireworks.
My brother, sister, and I played with explosives, while Dad watched us and made sure we didn’t blow off any fingers. Grandma and Grandpa watched from the driveway, and Grandpa always had a bucket of water by his side. Just in case.
I used to get these little tanks that rode on the ground while they sparked and exploded. There was always something exciting about watching the tanks shoot sparks and combust into flames.
One year, they came out with helicopters.
We were in the backyard, and it was early in the evening. We were just shooting off our tiny, harmless fireworks, so there was no emergency bucket of water. I got my kicks blowing up the tanks and then checked out the helicopters.
The first one was a dud. When I lit the second helicopter, it instantly shot up in the air…and disappeared over the roof of the house.
I found it in the garage, where it had somehow landed under Grandpa’s car. It had crashed in an oil stain and was ablaze. Grandpa was not close by with a bucket of water, so I had to stomp it out.
I felt like a disaster had just passed me by and barely missed me by a few inches. Of course that was a bad idea, I thought. Igniting gunpowder and letting fly erratically through the air comes with a few hazards.
Shooting cardboard explosives into the air while my dear grandparents watch from their lawn chairs; Grandpa ready for catastrophe; and me almost creating one.
Those are some good traditions.