Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My Father's World

I am totally bummed about the Fourth of July this year. I was so excited about having a three-day holiday. Three long days to eat, visit, be outdoors and blow things up.

When I was a kid the Fourth of July was the neatest holiday of all. Beaven and I both grew up in a time when you could still get Cherry Bombs. They were banned a while back but my son-in-law claims he was able to buy them during part of his own childhood. Cherry bombs were the ultimate in simple explosions. They had a powerful blast but were only about the size of a cherry, hence their name. They were red (duh) and had a sturdy green fuse. Nothing more. You just lit the thing and ran like hell. Firecrackers were wimp-city next to a Cherry Bomb. I guess that’s why they got banned.

The most fun thing you could do with them was light a cigarette then tear the filter off and stick the fuse into the end. Leave the cherry bomb in some isolated place –like, say, the back stairs of your dorm at college. Eventually, about 20 minutes later the cigarette ash would reach the fuse and the cherry would explode. By that time you could be long gone, into a friends room on another wing of another floor of the dorm for instance and no one would suspect you. I have it on, uh, good authority that this makes a horrendous noise, similar to a gun going off. One particular dorm mother I knew was scared to death and went looking for the culprit, whom she would probably have kicked out of school instantly if she could get her hands on her.

But, MAN, it was fun!! I mean, I guess it would be if you were to do that, which I never said I did. Did I?

Anyway, blowing stuff up is loads of fun and I recommend it highly. The idea of a three-day Fourth of July weekend sounded wonderful. So when Steve showed up with a sack of fireworks Thursday night and then Emily and Elizabeth showed up Friday morning with another sack of stuff I thought I was cool for Friday night. I thought Granny would go buy her stash the next day for Saturday night. And possibly some firecrackers for the day on Sunday afternoon.

And it’s not just the boom part–the mere act of buying stuff out of the plywood trailer is fun in itself. You lean over the counter and look at it all then tell the kid behind the counter what you’re looking for. “I want something that goes in the air and is pretty. Not too loud, though. Just pretty.” Or, “I want something that flies through the air and leaves sparkling lights in a trail of explosions.” The goal is to become a connoisseur of explosives. It’s a lifelong learning experience --to explore all the ways the manufacturer can arrange different chemicals so that they will do different things when you light a match to them.

Well. Did you know the fine lawmakers in our great state have written a law that says you can only sell fireworks up to midnight the day of the event? In other words, 11:59 p.m. July 4th. In other words, not Saturday, July 5th or Sunday, July 6th. I went up to the fireworks stand up at Joe Bob’s gas station on Saturday morning to find them packing up to put the stand in storage for another year. What kind of an idiot would pass a law like that? When we still had two whole days ahead of us? This is the state where the Governors mansion burned to the ground last month, for crying out loud. Do we sound like we worry about fire hazards?Where you can buy a gun at the local Wal-Mart. Do you think we worry about little things like too many opportunities to hurt ourselves?

So, without fireworks, our family was reduced to eating ourselves into a sugar high second only to Thanksgiving. Three pies, a cake and a can of whipped cream. I did buy a sugar-free angel food cake so we could have strawberry shortcakes but forgot to take it out. The strawberries went instead on the two cartons of ice cream.

Then Sunday morning in church we had great patriotic music by our organist. Margaret must have known I would still be mourning my lost explosives so she played her heart out on the closing music. But I couldn’t help remember that the most patriotic piece of music for me this year was on Fathers Day.

One of the hymns that morning was “This is My Fathers World”. Not a patriotic song at all. For starters, it always reminds me of the year we sang that song on Mothers Day and all the women were up in arms. So at least we were singing the song at an appropriate time.

I know the song is about our Creator and the world He has made for us. But I couldn’t help but think of my own father and his service in WWII, the big one. He served in the South Pacific and was away from home so long that my sister didn’t remember him when he got home. There were seven years between my sister and myself that were a result of the war.

So I am a baby boomer, born nine months after Daddy got home. I am a child of the 50's with Davy Crocket coonskin hats and Leave It To Beaver. I had one of the most wholesome and carefree childhoods you can imagine. (Well, around 12 or 13 things went south but until then I had pretty much the perfect childhood.) Television was still new and there weren’t any programs for kids except Howdy Doody. I lived in a neighborhood full of kids. Few houses had air-conditioning and we spent most of our time outdoors. We went all over the neighborhood including the creek two blocks away and our parents rarely knew where we were. Obviously, Mother knew where I had been when I came home soaking wet from swimming in the creek but all I had to do was tell her I fell in and she would pretend she believed me. The only hard and fast rule was to head home once we saw the streetlights come on.

This was “My Fathers World” the world Daddy served in the Army to insure for me and my grandchildren. A world where the strongest explosive I will face in a day's time is from the occasional firecracker, not a roadside IED strong enough to penetrate a tank. A world where my vote usually counts if I can get enough people to agree that my candidate is the one to vote for. And a world where if my candidate doesn’t win we still have someone in office with a reasonable sense of fairness and acceptance of the idea that my views, though different, are valid and should be honored.

I’ve had some “issues” with the guy in office right now, and maybe even some questions about the validity of the way he got elected the first time. But I still live in the best country in the world. And even as frustrated as some of our politicians make me, they’re still better than some countries in the world. And I always have the very real opportunity to get elected to office myself if I want to be involved through more than just complaining. So if there’s any criticism to throw I have to throw some my own direction over my lazy attitude toward government.

I don’t think I want our country’s flag flown in my church sanctuary because that opens a whole can of worms that I’m not sure I want to open. But I wore a t-shirt with the flag on it all day Saturday, even though there wasn’t even a firecracker to be had in town.

All in all, this is a pretty great country we live in. This is My Father’s World. Thank you, Daddy.


Anonymous said...

"Good one, Jane! No, that's not right. EXTRA good one!" Please keep on writing - I'm sure lots of folks beside myself read your thoughts every Wednesday, comment favorably in private, and you may wonder whether anyone reads or not. WE DO, WE DO (as they say in the "Tuna" plays).

The very best thing is the way you tie all the pieces together at the end. How DO you do that?? It's a gift, Girl, and you have it. V.Mehaffie

Anonymous said...

Jane: I agree with the previous comment. I look forward to reading your posts each week. I especially like to read your SYW ones, both before and after (and this year during?) As a fellow Presbyterian whose children are former SYW'ers - it is a crazy and spiritual week that is made possible by adults such as you! THANK you for your dedication to the workshop and our youth! kmm

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