Sunday, September 13, 2020


 Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2019 

Growing up, we always went to Nana's on the 4th of July. Always. There was no option, no variance, it was always to Nan's for the noon meal. We took day-works - firecrackers, snakes, sparklers, pop-its, jumping Jacks, and the like. There was always watermelon and homemade ice cream. When my cousin Russ was alive and still mobile, we cousins would gather around him in the living room floor before and directly after lunch and play dominoes or Boggle. The women cleaned the kitchen and visited, the men dozed off in the post-meal tradition. Then finally! We'd climb the chat pile out back (hello, lead poisoning!) and Dad and the uncles would oversee the explosives. That was Dad's side of the family. Mom's side of the family was fairly fluid in their plans. Sometimes it was our house, sometimes it was Uncle Larry’s, occasionally we gathered at Papa's farm, it depended on where he was with harvesting or mowing or how sick Memaw was at the time. They were the evening festivity people. More sparklers, plus fountains and all the other fun, booming, high-in-the-sky stuff. It was always a day of cousins and food and stickiness and dirt and fun.

When Sis and I started families of our own we were just excited to have reason to buy fireworks once again. Paul and I were so broke when the kids were little, but starting in June we would scrimp and save up $100 for fireworks. It seemed like a lot until we got to the tent, then it seemed paltry and like it never bought enough. Sam always picked out something that pooped, Abby like the screaming chicken laying a fiery egg, Kady usually cried and whined that one of her siblings picked out the firework she wanted and the world was surely coming to an end.

Since we moved to Wyandotte we somehow created this tradition where every year on or around the 4th, we blow something up with a stupid amount of Tannerite. Over the years we’ve blown up a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher, and this year a stove and a dog house. My Big Family™ came over on Saturday, for volleyball (we don't play by many rules, there is a lot of smack talking and even more of Abby and me avoiding the ball at all costs), the littles played in the kiddie pool. After dinner we got ready for the boom. Like the diligent rednecks we are, we warn the neighbors (this year I posted in our neighborhood watch Facebook page to let everyone know we weren’t under siege) and record it all on our phones. A storm was trying to blow in as Paul set up for the shot, so there was the added drama of “Will we be struck by lightning while waiting for the massive explosion that could possibly send debris flying at us?” It. Was. Exhilarating. One container was sufficient for the dog house, but instead of using the remaining three for three separate explosions the guys decided to duct tape three together for one GIANT cook stove explosion. We’re talking meth lab proportions, folks. It rattled our livers.

We don’t get together with Mom’s or Dad’s sides of the family anymore. We have become our own family unit I guess. Our group has gone from Mom, Sis, me and our spouses to a whopping 18 with all the grands and great-grands. This year Cousin Jason came out as well. (I’m not sure the man will ever be the same. I should probably call and check on him…) and one of Kady’s friends came out, too. I hope we only continue to grow as the years change the dynamics. I know certain folks will leave, more will come in, everyone will grow older, and eventually they will begin their own family units and start their own traditions. And maybe the group that continues to gather up here on the Mountain will become boring people who don’t blow up discarded appliances, but gosh, I sure hope not.  

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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...