I love America. I really do. Yesterday was, in the words of my friend Sarah, my Ameriversary, or the day I returned to the US after a year in China. It was a magical day, filled with family and love and Taco Bell. A magical week followed, wherein I frolicked in Target and ate a lot of dairy products.
My family also loves 'Murica. We get together almost every year (Thanks for getting married last year and ruining it, Sam) for a Fourth of July celebration. A long time ago, I wrote about it, and thank goodness, because otherwise I had nothing to post this week #winning. For your reading pleasure:
I love my family. This is true for a number of reasons. For instance, every fourth of July, my dad's side of the family gets together for a big patriotic extravaganza. This experience is largely dependent on the concept of “scheduled fun.” To me, this is the best kind of fun, as I am a big fan of structure. My father, “the Commissioner,” or more commonly, “the Commish” plans and prints out schedules, listing meal times, tournament times, game times, and other various family bonding times, and posts them prominently around my aunt's house. If by some heinous oversight you are caught having unscheduled fun, you can be sure the Commish will call you out on it. I thrive in this type of environment. But even if you personally cannot handle this degree of structure, there is still a lot to like about my family. Take our annual fireworks show.
These shows were started many a fourth o' July ago by my Uncle Scott, who would faithfully incorporate stirring history lessons into his show every year. I learned many a drastically simplified version of a classic American battle or war, through my Uncle's ingenious use of fire-powered tanks and turtles to represent the opposing armies.
They all ended the same way; after the story, all pretense of an educational experience was dropped, and Uncle Scott would instead read us the humorous names of the fireworks (“Killer Bees”) as he set them off while we would literally all OOH and AAH in unison. We sat back and admired all the fireworks that, despite their creative names (“Phantom Night”) all looked pretty much the same. Back then, he used the kind of fireworks that look vaguely like fountains, and, as far as explosives go, would probably the least effective at destroying any sort of infrastructure. Times were good.
I can not say these same things about the fireworks shows of recent years, however. This is not to say these shows aren't enjoyable, it is only to say that they are not, strictly speaking, fire marshall approved. They used to be “ho-hum, this is amusing and visually pleasing” enjoyable, and now the enjoyment comes mainly from the relief of having escaped a particular firework with both eyeballs intact. I now like to make sure there are several solid barriers between me and the display, preferably chairs filled with people, this year's human shield being my cousin Maddie.
You may well ask, “Why are you such a wimp?” or maybe, "Who gets the awesome job to name fireworks?" or possibly, “What happened that caused such a drastic change in the Speckhard family firework system?” You seem to be the inquisitive type, but I will answer your last question.
A few years ago, the show was handed down from my Uncle Scott to my (early 20s boy) cousins. To be fair, they added a lot of interesting aspects of the show, my favorite being hick accents. Another bonus of this show was their assistant, my younger cousin Steve, who was forced to wear goggles for his (needed) protection, thus causing my older cousins to dub him “Scuba Steve,” which is admittedly pretty great when said in a hick accent.
This year, however, was probably the first year I spent the majority of the time cowering. I will still admit I am a wimp, as there were a number of people sitting, of their own free will, in the front row, and shockingly, these people were all related to me and thus knew what was coming. But in my defense, though Maddie herself was sitting in the front row, she was also wearing sweatpants and a hoodie, and made sure 100% of her skin was covered at all times, additionally covering her face whenever a particularly impish-looking firework was lit.
My cousins did not do much to instill confidence when they kept setting up fireworks and saying things like “We're not sure what this one does,” while lighting them with their cigars. In the end though, no one was physically injured, unless you count the harm my cousins did to themselves, which I don't. Emotional injury, however, is another matter, and I don't expect to recover fully for weeks. During this time, I would ask that no one use the words “fire,” “work,” “Amurica,” “killer bees,” or “scuba” in my presence. Thank you.