The 4th of July

 I clearly remember the humidity on the hillside at the park,
the smell of the fresh cut grass, the anticipation of spending
45 minutes with the girl of the moment to watch the fireworks.

I called her the week before, her Dad answering the phone,
and he really sounded like he wasn’t ready for this call yet.

His little girl.

Already, the boys are coming.

But she took the phone from him, and I heard “Daa-aaad”.

A one syllable word that became three syllables.

I tried to be confident when I asked if she would like to meet
me at the park to watch the fireworks.

I tried to recover when she said “Yes”.

“Ahhh… great! Will see you on the hill at dusk… thanks!”

And she came. She looked amazing, her smile was my dream,
teeth brilliant white, a coral-colored halter top, high waisted bell
bottom jeans, earth shoes, and she smelled just like lemons.

I waved to her across the way and was overwhelmed when she
met my gaze and waved back with a laugh.

I spread out the old blanket that my mom washed for us to sit on.

Mom made sure to use fabric softener so it would smell great,
all the while not making a big deal of it so I wouldn’t be nervous.

But it was a big deal.

And I was nervous.

I went over to the park early to find a spot on the hill to spread
the blanket with great care. I wanted to choose the best view for
the fireworks.

I thought that this would be the thing, the thing that would
impress her enough to think I was cool enough to be with her.

And we spent a wonderful hour.

The whole hillside smelled like OFF Mosquito Repellant,
cigarettes, and freshly showered but now sweaty humans.

Fizz…THUMP…each of the fireworks rocketing into the sky,
everyone following the sparkling trail of light, anticipating
the wonderful explosion of color and pattern exploding
into the night sky.

Boom! And the smell of cordite became thicker and thicker
with each explosion.

I thought of all the colored bunting in the store windows
downtown, and all the flags flying beside everyone’s front
doors that lined the streets.

Then I thought about my grandfathers, in the trenches in
World War One, my dad in the second war that followed,
how their positions on the hillsides watching and anticipating
the next explosion was not experienced in the same way
as I am privileged to experience it on this night.

They endured unspeakable fear and uncertainty, physical
and mental hardship, so I, in this moment, can watch this
lovely girl watch amazing fireworks, laughing at each
explosion of light and sound.

The bunting on the storefronts shows their age, looking like
relics from another era.

And they may very well be just that.

But still, they show us who we are, their yellowed edges not
at all signs of being out-of-date or in ruin. But just how lasting
the victory can be.

How hopeful we can be that we are descended from people
of grit, determination, and commitment to each other.

She felt my eyes on her and turned to meet my gaze.

Then beaming turns back to the sound of the next explosion
so high in the night sky.

Thank you, grandpas, for fighting for me, for all of us, so we
could have this moment.

Her lips tasted like watermelon gum.