My mother must have thought we were retarded (sorry, love that word) when we were young because she always announced when it was time for the 4th of July fireworks:
“Kids, let’s go outside. It’s almost time for the Boom Booms.” Well, first of all, I must be lying because the Mendenhall kids would have been outside anyway. My mom shoved us outside first thing in the morning and would only unlock the door when whe had to use the bathroom. Ok, lying again. But, we played outside all damn day.
Second of all, we understood the word, fireworks. We really did. It was like a firecracker, but much larger, and up in the sky. But for some strange reason, my mom always called fireworks, Boom Booms. Of course, this was the same woman who called my budding fourth grades breasts, mosquito bites, so she was just a loon on any given day.
Dogs don’t really care for fireworks, and our dog, Susie, was afraid of the damn Boom Booms. The sounds of firecrackers and people screaming from exploding firecrackers permeated throughout the neighborhood. Susie was a fox terrier, so she was small and first wanted to be held when the first of the noise-makers began, but then just couldn’t take it any longer and would bolt under my mom’s bed.
I loved growing up in Weirton, West Virginia. Fourth of July was a big deal in our city. Almost everyone in our neighborhood had their American flags out on their porches. We had a gigantic flagpole in our backyard. My dad used to march us up there like little memebers of the VFW and have a flag ceremony. My brother David would be saluting as he walked.
I was even in a few 4th of July parades when I belonged to a majorette group. I wore a red sequined outfit and threw my baton around like I knew what I was doing. I’m surprised I didn’t bop someone in the head with one of my missed baton throws.
So, yes, the 4th of July was a great time in Weirton. But, the people who lived in Woodland Estates were quite lucky because we lived near the Weirton Airport, and that’s where they had the fireworks. I mean Boom Booms.
So, after all the backyard picnics and the badminton games were over, people brought their chairs to their front yards for the big firework display that were put on at the airport. Most people drove to the airport and put blankets down like they were at the Bellaire Drive-In. But, we had thee perfect spot on our front porch or yard to view the fireworks. My mom would never have taken us to see the fireworks if we lived elsewhere unless we were on leashes. She would have lost us in thirty seconds.
So, you could hear everyone talking from their porches, waiting for the big fireworks to begin. My dad would be on the sidewalk, talking to our next door neighbors, Joe and Rosa. It was a great time. The fireworks would begin at exactly 10:00. When we were quite young, it would be way past our bedtime, so we would sit on the front porch in our pajamas. I remember being tired, although as a hyperactive worm, I couldn’t sit still in my chair. I was down in the front yard walking around in my pajamas until we could hear and see the first of the Boom Booms.
And that is when Susie the dog would usually disappear. You knew when the big Boom Booms were going to happen; there would just be a bright silvery blob in the sky and then Oh My God, what a noise! We would cover our ears and squeal in delight. Life was good.
So, on this 4th of July, I don’t think about the past and the people who fought for our freedom. I teach that every year and have a lot of fun with it, but it is not what I think of when that red, white, blue day comes every year. No, I think of my mom, sitting on the front porch, wearing those damn cat-eye glasses and smoking her Salem cigarettes, asking her children if they were excited about the Boom Booms that were about to start.
And you know, yes, we were. And it wouldn’t have been special if she hadn’t used that damn phrase.
And yes, I used that phrase one year when my children were quite young, and then I slapped myself.