It sounds like a Katy Perry war zone outside. I realize fifteen years from now, you’ll have no earthly idea what that reference means, but trust me, Emmy Kate, it’s a terrible scene.
In all realness, the Fourth of July has always meant something to me. America’s birthday, sure. Pride in the country you live in (that is until you start talking about politics), sure. Friend and family, absolutely. And finally, my Dad’s favorite holiday.
We celebrate the 4th by barbecuing meats at friends and neighbors houses, swimming in pools to escape the summer heat, adults drinking beers and what not, and ending it with some fireworks, literally.
Your mom and I connected really early over this holiday back in 2012. We went to a fireworks show that your dad found on a quick internet search as he was trying to impress her and her friends. We made our way to the crowd that was already gathered in the small park. Thusly, we were the back of the crowd. By the time we finally got there, it was the end of the concert being put on by the city of Farmers Branch. Then, when the stage lights dimmed and our group wondered if we’d just seen the last of our night, the focus came straight to the back of the crowd where your few-years-away-from-being-parents parents were sitting with your mom’s friends.
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Mr. Brown makes thunder.
Okay, lame Dad joke by Dr. Seuss. But when we heard the first explosion of colorful, cindering filament, our heads jerked around and witnessed this beautiful color-filled sky beckoning above us to have all the watchers-by ooh and ahh behind us. We were front row, with all the deafening sounds, percussion, and occasional “are we too close” moment that would make any pyro-enthusiast jealous.
Sure enough, it was your parents 3rd or 4th date on the 4th of July, 2012 and we were being sprinkled with the familiar sulfur smell of fireworks.
We sat on a quilt your great-grandmother made, watching the black night rejoice with a show that couldn’t be rivaled at that moment. I looked to my side, where your mom sat. Her hair adorned bangs then. They sat softly atop the flashbulb of her camera where she was capturing the moments.
Your dad just whispered to her to ask, “how can you enjoy this through the lens of a camera?”
That brief question would become a debate, a joke, a smile for years to come. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, she loves being behind the camera.
It’s four year later tonight. We’re not at a sushi joint after the show with a bunch of people watching your mom trying to pretend she enjoys raw fish. We’re not on your great-grandmother’s quilt, though it’s in a basket 6 feet from me. One half of us is asleep. Wait, I guess that’s two-thirds of us is asleep. Exhausted from a weekend in Louisiana, several restless nights, and a long day of heat and humidity.
The rest of us (me) watched late night fireworks from the front porch. The country club just a block or two away puts on a show that would put pop stars to shame. And we can see it from our side porch. Well, again, you’re asleep. But Dad can see it.
I tend to stay up just a little later on this night. The 4th. Your grandfather, my father, passed away tomorrow night in 2014. He loved the 4th of July. Maybe more than anyone. You should have seen the arsenal of fireworks he’d collect year after year.
And as he would stubbornly do all things, he waited until this day was over, so he could see the light show over the Lubbock sky one last time before leaving us here on earth, to carry on.
My hope is that one day you’ll remember me as fondly as I remember him. Maybe you’ll take a minute at some point during the year to stop, reflect on the things I’ve taught you, honor my memory in some small way, cry, pray, love someone else as much as I’ve loved you. Whatever it may be, I hope I give you the same, profound effect on your soul that my father gave me.
And maybe next time you look in the sky as the man-made micro stars rain down from the heavens, you won’t think about hotdogs, swimming pools, sparklers or watermelon, you’ll just see a glimmer of remembrance.