July 4th used to be a big deal in my family. My parents would host a party at our house overlooking the James River, tucked back out of the way at the end of a winding, potholed road. My mother would cook for 50 or 60 guests, and my father would order a ridiculous amount of fireworks that always made the UPS delivery guy nervous when he brought the boxes to the door. On the night of the party, my brother and I would make ourselves useful directing cars into parking spaces.
Fireflies came out as it got darker, and if you happened to chase one anywhere near the pool, you were liable to get hit with a flying tree frog launched into the air by one of the mischievous kids. The frogs usually ended up in the pool with the rest of the kids later that night.
When it was sufficiently dark, my father would tap one of the men there and enlist him to help put on the fireworks show. I’m not sure if he had any elaborate plan in mind, but he usually managed to save some of the more spectacular pieces for the end. Our favorites were the ones that launched mortars that would explode to reveal a smoldering piece of cork attached to a parachute; there was always a contest to see which of the kids in attendance could catch the most parachutes. I usually gave away the ones I caught to girls I had a crush on.
It’s been years since my parents threw a party like that. My father was tempted to order a shipment of fireworks again this year, but the donkey who lives with my parents’ goats (you may think I’m making this up) has never experienced fireworks. There was no telling how she might react, so no DIY fireworks display this year.
Me, I live in a prime location to view Richmond’s two big July 4th celebrations without having to stray too far from home. For the third year in a row, I stood in the median of the street across from my building on the night of July 4th and gazed up to see fireworks over [Dogwood Dell][dogwood] in Byrd Park to the south, and over the Diamond — home of the [Richmond Braves][braves] — to the north. Parents were out there with their kids, cars stopped in the middle of the street and the bombs bursting in air were much bigger than anything my father could have gotten away with legally. But it’s just not the same without the parachutes.