Erica Lucke Dean

"Making the world a better place, one book at a time."

happy birthday america!

Independence Day

It was a day for family.  We had a lovely picnic planned at home. Grilled burgers, homemade potato salad, fresh cut fruit, and all the trimmings.  Too bad the three older kids had other plans. 

No matter…

The rest of us ate on the front porch and enjoyed the cool evening air, thankful that the cool nights had come back, and sighed with contentment. What could be better on the 4th of July than a quiet evening at home? It was right about then that our youngest child (recently back from her international travels with her mother) said..."We're going to the fireworks tonight, right?"

Right.

So we gathered up the food and put everything away. Put the dogs to bed. And pulled the folding camp chairs from their perch atop a shelf in the garage. Well, Mike got those down. I'm not fond of spiders and I was convinced they were crawling with them. We piled into the family sedan and off to the next town over to see fireworks.

Parking is at a premium anywhere near the lake and we waited until 730 to even decide to go, so there was little chance we would be sitting at the lake. Instead we found ourselves parked at the Baptist church off Lake drive.  We weren't alone. It was a veritable tailgate party in the church parking lot.  The church ladies in their Sunday best, sipping "lemonade" out of red plastic cups.

And then there was us, killing time in the car before braving the bugs and the rednecks on the far shore of the lake. We could only listen to the 1812 Overture so many times before my husband was ready to walk along the road to secure our spot under the pines.

Have I mentioned how much I hate bugs? And I walked off without my organic bug repellent. We hadn't even reached the clearing along side of the bridge and I was already defending myself against a mosquito attack. My flip flops were starting to give out from the loose gravel. And my family was several paces ahead of me. I struggled to keep up as we made our way through the throng of tattoos, rebel flags, Chevy trucks, Budweiser cans, and Dixie cups to find an unoccupied spot in between a line of pine trees. The view would be slightly blocked by the trees in front, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Right about then, that decided how much I loved my husband for bringing the web covered chairs and I shook mine vigorously until I was sure it was free of multi-legged creatures and sat down.

I wasn't in my chair for 5 minutes when I got bit by the first fireant. I was sitting on the outer rim of an ant trail. I checked my chair and then my husbands and gasped. There was a big black beetle looking thing on the back of his chair. I wasn't worried about him, but I needed to know if my chair had bugs on it so I screeched, "there's a big black bug on the back of your chair! Quick check mine!"

It was a rivet.

But there was still the matter of the fireants. I kept my feet up as much as possible.

Even in the open air I was being choked out by cigarette smoke and bug spray.

The fireworks were late...as usual…but not disappointing once they got going.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the entertainment was really worth the trouble, but I pushed back those thoughts and let myself enjoy the show. 

I’ve seen a lot of fireworks in my days, but there is just something about sitting in the woods with a bunch of strangers that makes you keep repeating it year after year.

I always say I'm going to leave before the end, to get a jump on the traffic, but I never do.

The mass exodus after the fireworks reminded me eerily of a horror movie. Like the end of the world or something—hundreds of people walking along the side of the road aimlessly. But we weren't really aimless. At least not my group. None of us had to pause to vomit over the side of the embankment after drinking too much. We didn't even remember bottled water, and I was suddenly parched. 

The people in front of me tripped over a dead bird. I thought it was a cat at first but then I noticed the feathers.  We still had a ways to go to reach the car.

Getting out of the parking space was too easy. We drove effortlessly around the church to the back of a long line of cars, stalled on the way to the exit.  The road was bumper to bumper traffic in all directions. And we weren't moving. Thankfully we had lots of gas and I didn't have to pee.

That's when the woman in the pick-up truck adjacent to us started singing. She was knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door. And I was more than willing to give her a hand getting in. I have never in my life seen so many white pick-up trucks in one place. We had apparently gone to see fireworks in a parody of the movie Deliverance. I was suddenly wishing for a little zombie action. But since zombies feed on brains they wouldn't have had much to eat there.

I've decided that fireworks bring out the dumb in people.

I suppose I am included in that, since I was just as entrenched in the traffic, scratching my bites, and wishing for a bottle of something that wasn’t water. 

Oh well…it was a birthday party after all.  And if you can’t celebrate your nation’s birth, what can you celebrate?

Until the next time…I’ll be looking for the calamine lotion and taking a Benadryl with my “lemonade”

Copyright © 2000-2016, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.