Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Our Independence Day Theater

About this time of year,
my brothers would mount up the riding lawnmowers,
rev up the weed eaters
and push their spinning blades
through the overgrown thicket
behind my parent's house.

What began as stickers and stubbles-
bushes and brambles
and unruly vines gone wild-
soon transformed
into a well groomed outdoor theater.

And the featured show
was the Forth of July fireworks.

The celebration was less than a mile away-
across the field and over the runway
at the little local airport.

It was a family gathering.
Bigger than Labor Day
and almost as exciting as Christmas.

Our large family would begin
their migration slowly-
a few couples lugging lawn chairs and suntan lotion
through the sagging barbed wire
onto the freshly landscaped arena.

Others followed-
with bug spray,
and bubbling excitement.

A trail of popcorn
or impatient sparklers
always led the way for friends
and strangers who had been invited
to share the family festivities.

Like spectators in an opera house,
we gathered in our seats-
anxious for the sky to grow dark
and the show to begin.

The first pop of a firecracker
sent giddy waves of giggles
from the little kids-
and smiles of anticipation
from grownups.

Ooohs and Ahhhs began immediately-
as giant flowers of light
burst in the summer sky
with trails of glitter and gleam.

Explosions of blue and red and green
created stars in the heavens
as we all tilted our heads back
and opened our mouths
to voice our evident approval.

The show was never long enough.

When the last pop finally faded,
we felt cheated-
swore they were shorter than last year,
and then gathered our gear for
a dark walk back to the house.

Then we visited over leftover hot dogs
and potato salad,
never really saying it-
but knowing that we were a lucky family.
That God had blessed us with wonderful parents
and special siblings
and memories that would last forever.

Mom and Dad are gone now.
Strangers live in the house
where I grew up.
Vines twist over the fence
and honeysuckle chokes out the view
of our old Independence Day theater.

But this weekend,
the first snap of a firecracker
will bring it all rushing back-
with an unpleasant tug of time
and pure childish joy.