Oklahoma City family fun is in the air on July 4. The memories your kids make this year just might last a lifetime.
July Fourth tops my list of favorite holidays. If you're looking for a way to celebrate, click here for our Independence Day Fun Guide and 10 reasons to celebrate Independence Day in Edmond.
My best Independence Day memory is of my Dad taking my sister and I to shop for fireworks circa 1995. There was a huge warehouse out in an industrial area known as "the strip" where vendors rented whole buildings starting in early June. No one questioned the legality of their sale and we looked forward to the Saturday he'd take us out there in his blue Chevy Blazer with its impeccably clean seats. I can still see the building's round yellow Black Cat sign with the scowling panther.
Leading up to the weekend before July Fourth, we improvised lemonade stands with handwritten signage, babysat children who were really our peers and watered houseplants for vacationing neighbors. One summer involved a large property that made for amateur sheep herding, along with checking on a home full of ailing cats and an obese hare that died during the family's time away.
Funds earned were earmarked as fireworks money and we were glad to have every dollar, even with the sole intention of watching our purchases literally go up in smoke mid-summer.
Our parents rarely doled out cash; there was allowance and they took care of expenses or, later, we paid for them, often from those same odd jobs.
The joy I felt when my Dad handed us each a $20 bill at the fireworks warehouse has stayed me through twenty more holidays. I watched him reach into his worn leather wallet and offhandedly present us both with one. I think he must have felt some kind of happiness to watch us choose carefully and run through barley fields with lit punks later. Maybe it took him back to his own childhood, which includes mentions of Roman candles, cherry bombs and ostensibly far less supervision that we had. I imagine his youth to be a lot like "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton, with few adults and a fair amount of injury.
I remember choosing poppers, those little white bb-filled paper twists that explode on the sidewalk. Charcoal snakes were $0.89 and we couldn't leave without the sparklers. July Fourth always ended with us writing our names with neon outlines between flashes from those long wire sticks before dunking them in a plastic five-gallon bucket of water for the night.
Independence Day lived up to its name for us, the neighborhood kids who all played together. Year after year, we became more adept at lighting firecrackers and running, staying out of the way from the makeshift launch area and watching over younger siblings who did things like setting the punk down in dry grass.
We saw those charcoal snakes grow from a little black dot and twist on the smooth stones where we'd lit them. The air was filled with sweet gun powder smells and a sense of danger. Occasionally, a neighborhood kid would get burned and I have a scar on my face from the white hot ash of the punk. Its searing pain comes to mind as I trace that faded outline.
Suburbia everywhere generally doesn't allow fireworks, I was sad to learn; they're definitely prohibited here and I'm sure our home owner's association would frown upon trying to host an old-fashioned July Fourth. I married my husband in Costa Rica, where professional fireworks display fill the night on Christmas Eve. I remember pulling a paper doll set with missing limbs out of the local paper; it was part of a publicity campaign to illustrate the dangers of buying illegal fireworks.
We have three sons now and their holiday is nothing like those of my childhood.
It's a relief, in a way, not to have to worry as much about their safety and what they're doing in vacant lots around this date. Pyrotechnics experts lead incredible local fireworks displays and local events, like LibertyFest at UCO.
I'd like to go back just once to the country, though, to really make it a day of independence from all things urban.
This year, though, we'll find something to do right here.