Ahhh, Independence Day, that sacred celebration of our forefathers' struggle to escape tyranny, the solemn reflection of the formation of this great and noble country of ours, the remembrance of those that went before, securing the very freedoms we enjoy to this very day. Okay now, seriously, it's about the food, the beer and the expolsives, isn't it? For as long as I can remember, my parents have hosted one of the finest examples of Fourth of July-ness you could possibly imagine. Coolers filled with ice, packed with perfectly chilled, gently sweating cans of every imaginable beverage, two grills smoking and emitting the sensuous aroma of burgers, brats and hot dogs, punctucated by the occasional hiss as juice hits white hot coals. The tables laden with watermelon, chips and largely ignored veggies brought by that one remaining optomistic mother who belives her children and others will eat carrots when other alternatives like Doritos beckon from the other end of the table. Trays of cookies, brownies and that most perfect of party desserts, Rice Crispy treats call to everyone and even the most hardy of dieting, work outing, carb counting, organic-ista among the gathered crowd is hard pressed to resist. Not long ago, one of my mom's friends arrived to this gathering with a very large tray of the aforementioned rice and marshmallow confection, attempted to pass through the gauntlet of partygoers in the front yard, was immediately relieved of her burden of treatage that ultimately never even made it into the house. The tray of Rice Crispy treat was set upon like the last leg of mutton at the Renaissance Festival...growling and snarling, these generally civilized adults ripped and tore chunks of marshmallow-y wonderfulness, the weakest being cast aside like a Paris Hilton pet of the moment. The strongest emerged from the fray with treasure beyond imagination, still slightly warm, gooey hunks of ricey crispiness. Those too polite to elbow their way through uncles, grandparents and cousins were left with the stray single crispy sticking to the side of the tray...those treats never knew what hit them.
The star of the day is, naturally, the explosives provided by my father (he heads to Wisconson for his haul), my parents' friend Scott (a Wisconson-goer as well), yours truly (North Dakota, man, for the REALLY illegal in Minnesota stuff) and a small gaggle of people that show up late in the evening that no one knows. We believe they live a couple of blocks over from my parents house, but no one is entirely sure...they get their stuff in South Dakota, I really MUST go there one day. We start small, simple, harmless even, with the little snappers you throw at the ground, working our way slowly up the explosives food chain through the course of the day. An appetizer of snappers is intermixed with the occasional wailing screech and bang of a bottle rocket, my father is compelled to throw an alarming number of firecrackers down the storm sewer in a lifelong quest to pop the top off of said sewer (still unrealized, alas) but an incredibly satisfying echoing set of ka-BAMS blasting from somewhere unseen makes up for the lack of flying discs of iron. My son and nephews disappeared for a while, emerging from the backyard with a pop can and a couple of dozen empty sparklers boxes and smiles that made every mother begin to twitch. Our fears were not unfounded, the boys had scraped all of the sparkler stuff into the pop can, the hope being to sparkler to end all sparklers. It was not quite the result they achieved...upon ignition, the sparkler stuff burned with the intensity of a thousand suns, blinding anyone who looked directly upon this brilliance, after only a moment, it seemed, burning itself out and leaving nothing behind but a melted, smoking brightly glowing wreck of what was once a Coke can. Impressive, to say the least.
I must mention at this point, the fact that my parents live across the street from a college campus, one that has not proven to be the friendliest of neighbors. Their security guards HATE us, and for good reason, I admit. An Independence Day at my parents' house is never quite complete without repeated glowering visits from campus security followed at some point by a visit from the real cops who usually just confiscate whatever we've foolishly left in plain sight, telling us to knock it off and going on their merry way. On year, my then four-year-old nephew asked the cop if he was going to arrest his father. Before the cop could answer, Casey offered the cop ten dollars (which he didn't even have), good thing he was really really cute at four because no one went to jail that day.
We usually end the evening with fountains and rocketry of increasing size and dangerousness, the artillery shells and major explosives saved for the grandest of finales, everyone patiently waiting their turn to shoot of the best of what they've brought this year and the promise of next year, there will be even cooloer stuff on the shelves of Wisconson, South Dakota and North Dakota. What till you see what we got THIS year!