4th of July, and other Family Disasters!
When I was a kid, I always loved the 4th of July - mostly because it was one of the few days a year where my grandfather's much-hidden inner scalliwag would shine through. Normally reserved and stoic, on the 4th he regressed to a child of about 12, I'd say. He loved nothing more than to come home from a vacation in the South with a big bag of firecrackers, the more illegal the better.
I remember him waking me up very early one morning, at about 5:30 or 6:00 AM, still dark outside, really. He dragged me down stairs, bleary-eyed, and produced an enormous firecracker, a red white and blue cylinder parked on a cheap plastic base. "This was always my father's favorite - 'The Morning Salute'." he then chuckled and went on, "Get 'em up first thing to appreciate the day! That's what he'd say."
Then we went outside, and put the firecracker down in the street. I wanted to light it, but he had me hide behind the lamp post in the front yard. Then he put a match to the fuse, and scurried behind the lamp post with me. There started a shower of sparks, and afterwards, a sharp rising whistle - it was so loud that dogs immediately started barking all over the neighborhood. Just as the whistle culminated in a high pitched shriek that was audible only to the dogs, and the living dead (who had been awoken by the racket) the firecracker then, I kid you not - whistled "Stars and Stripes Forever" before exploding in a titanic BANG that rattled windows for blocks around. Seconds later, we heard doors slam open, as people rushed out to see what remained after the atomic bomb (which had obviously just gone off in front of 605 General Armstrong Rd) detonated.
My grandfather would whoop the laugh that he reserved for these rare moments as we hustled back inside, before we were caught. Our neighbor would later complain about "reckless teen-agers" and my grandfather would nod sagaciously over the hedges at him.
I love the 4th of July - what better way to celebrate our patriotism and independence by endangering our neighbors?