This morning I lay in the twilight of sleep, slowly rousing. The fan was making lazy circles overhead and I could smell a hint of wet grass through the open window. The cool sheets felt good as I dozed. Again, I was transported back to the excitement of my childhood on the Fourth of July.
For a moment I was 10 again, in the little house on Howard Avenue. Mom and Dad were just getting moving. Our dog, Tippy, was barking. A screen door slammed. Probably the Wittenbrocks next door, going out to clean the pool for an afternoon of neighborhood kids. Someone was mowing the lawn, and I pictured the American flags fluttering in front of the houses on the block.
I knew we would swim and barbecue, play with sparklers and light black snakes. I loved watching that coil of black ash curl up out of the fire, growing longer until it finally broke with a dry tinkle on the pavement, leaving a black spot that was still there at Thanksgiving. Sparklers were fun, especially if you wrote your name in the dark, leaving a glowing trail of light on your eyeballs, dazzled by the intense glow at the tip.
There was a unique scent to the Fourth, a combination of gunpowder, hot pavement and newly cut grass. The day was sure to be hot, barefoot weather, but I learned when I was little to wear my "thongs" or "zoris" (which we now call flip-flops!) If I could ever get down that far again, I'd probably still be able to find the scar on the bottom of one foot where I stepped on a still-hot metal wire from a spent sparkler when I was five.
Happily, here at One Another House we're having a bit of an old-fashioned Fourth. We have a kiddie pool set up for the little ones, warming out in he summer sun. We have sparklers ready to enjoy, and I plan to thrill my granddaughter by writing her name with brilliant light. We're going to barbecue steaks, and there's a watermelon waiting to be sliced. The neighborhood is gathering at our next door neighbor's house for fireworks on the street.
The contrast between then and now blurs a bit. Maybe that's one of those aging things, a God-given opportunity to see past and present as all one. Whatever it is, I plan to enjoy this evening just like I was a kid again.