Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fourth

I remember my Grandfather's tall lanky body trying to fit into the small dark cobwebby crawl space underneath our camp. He would move slowly, mostly as a result of his emphysema, but also because of his deliberate way. He never did more than he had to. Although breathing laboriously, he moved ladders and extra boards around to find the tall metal tube that would be used for shooting the rockets higher into the sky.

And once that was retrieved, he would dig around some more to find the piece of plywood, already decorated with the swirly black paths left by the "flowers" lit from previous summers.

He would place the plywood on the dock and lean the metal tube, which was as tall as he was, against the tree that hung his fraying, but still functional, American Flag. He would find his work gloves, tattered and old, and throw them down on the ground next to the tube. He would meticulously move the boats, my favorite wooden rowboat and his favorite 1959 motor boat with the taillights of a 1957 Chevy, to a neighbor's dock.

And as evening approached, he would start a fire in the fire ring and sit in his favorite lawn chair, poking at the fire deliberately to make it work harder.

My grandmother, in her tiny stature and nature, would carry down a folding table and place upon it the fixings for s'mores. She would return with metal skewers.

And as darkness prevailed a flair would appear at the very end of the lake, signaling it time that others, too, should place their lit flairs at the end of their docks. I remember finding the white dust the next morning, remnants of the flair's life and light in the early dusk of the night before.

And then someone, when darkness was a definite presence, would light the first firework and after its color dissipated, shouts would echo off the water and cheers would reverberate off the trees.

And then someone down at Sandy Beach would light some dynamite like color, just earth shaking booms. And more cheers. And more hurrahs.

And then my grandfather would stand at his position, holding his metal tube at just the right angle; his gloves protecting his already tough hands. A helper would light the rocket and then scurry to safety. And my grandfather would hold his place as a few anxious seconds passed before the whoosh of the rocket went through the metal pipe and up (higher than anyone else's on the lake) into the sky to explode in a rainbow of embers. More cheers. More hurrahs. And a giggle from my generally serious grandfather.

And the whiz and whorl of the flowers before they slipped off into the water on either side of the dock. And then the blub, blub, blub of them trying to stay alive in their wet bath.

And then there were the airplanes. These made my grandmother the most nervous, as she thought it was certain that one would land on someone's head, or in a tree, or on the roof and a fire of the biggest nature would ensue, and all would be wrecked (and now you know where my nature to worry comes from). So she would seek refuge on the porch, hiding under the glow of the yellow bulb used to ward off bugs.

And the night would continue with cheers and hurrahs.

(jen, this one's for you)

Until all would be calm again and then my grandmother would replace herself by the fire, which at this point would be emberlicious for s'mores. She would have graham crackers and chocolate prepared on her tray, and secretly treat herself to squares of Hershey's in the dark of the night.

And we would get sticky marshmallow love all over us.

And then we would play kick the can.

Or flashlight tag.

And some of us would be sent to bed.

But as I got older, I was allowed to stay up late.

And sit on the end of the dock with my mother.

After the fire was extinguished with a bucket of water, and all the flairs on the ends of everybody's docks were expired, and everyone's echoes were laid to rest,

we would get ourselves lost in the stars. And sometimes, because it felt like we were sleeping among them, we could feel our wishes falling on top of us.


  1. Yes, I do love it...may our wishes keep falling on top of us. Love, mom

  2. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you Mary for letting me read your life. I miss you.