Dusk was upon us. As the fiery midsummer sun ducked into the horizon, the sounds of pops, cracks and whistles could be heard in the distance. The troops were eagerly huddled as one of the commanders struck a match and lit the Saturn Missile. Instantly, 100 mini missiles raced into the clouds whistling one by one and ending with a rather loud repeat. The troops scattered and screamed in terror from the loud booms and bright flashes of light in the sky. As the haze settled from the massive explosions and the screams diminished, the commander said, “Hey kids, who wants to do some sparklers?” The troops yelled, “No, daddy, no!” It wasn’t a scene from Operation Desert Storm. Just a good old-fashioned 4th of July celebration.
There’s nothing more traditional than hot dogs, apple pie, backyard barbeques and fireworks to celebrate the birth of our nation. This year, our celebration with family and friends went smoothly until the fireworks portion of the evening. The children were absolutely terrified of the fire and the noise from all the pyrotechnics. When you think about it, kids are spending their formative years being taught not to play with fire. It all started 60 years ago with Smokey the Bear. Community fire and police departments are talking to kids as early as preschool about fire safety habits. These children are known as the Safety Kids.
While dining at a chinese restaurant over the holiday weekend with a Safety Kid, my husband ate an entire forkful of hot red peppers thinking they were stir fried peapods. A mistake not so obvious to someone who is color blind. As his face turned the same shade of red as the blazing peppers he just ingested, he exclaimed that his mouth was on fire and chugged an entire glass of ice water. My five-year old daughter casually quipped, “Daddy, why don’t you just tell your tongue to stop, drop and roll.” I don’t know if I was more proud of her fire safety knowledge or the fact that she inherited our “smartass” gene.
After dinner we merrily shopped for a supply of fireworks to set off in the cul-de-sac as part of the Independence Day festivities. All the Safety Kids were thrilled until the fireworks actually went off. I too remember being frightened of fireworks as a child possibly due to a misfired stink bomb or stray spark. An adult at our gathering, who shall remain nameless, chose to put on a dance routine with sparklers as their contribution to the show rather than fire up the likes of a Single Day Parachute or a Moonbeam Missle. I guess Smokey the Bear’s message is still ingrained in their brain or they hit the beer cooler one too many times.
As a youngster I almost sent my father to jail once when the local police crashed our neighborhood 4th of July celebration. Apparently he was shooting off a bag of illegal fireworks he purchased in Tennessee. The policeman gave my father a warning and asked if he had more fireworks. Being frightened and trained never to lie, I yelled, “What about the fireworks in the closet?” My mother quickly muzzled me and said I watched too much television. That was 40 years ago and most all of those fireworks are now legal and readily available.
Back at the cul-de-sac, the Safety Kids finally warmed up to the idea of holding a sparkler after 30 minutes of screaming and hiding in the trenches. Who could refuse the new super-sized three-foot long McSparklers? The dads took turns lighting up the Superior Star Fish, Desert at Night and Pop Goes the Fountain. And, the Tiny Dancer Dad did another jig. This time, the Safety Kids screamed with joy and only cried because the fireworks were all gone.