Measuring My Life Through Fourth Of July Holidays

Deborah Welky


Every year, across the nation, families gather to celebrate Independence Day. There are community celebrations, parades, picnics, pool parties, fishing tournaments, outdoor games for the kids and fireworks. I love it.

But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend.

In my single digit years, dad would drive the family four hours north to grandma’s house, where my mother would help my grandmother make potato salad and dad would help me decorate my bike for the parade. Later, they’d all loudly cheer for me during the running races and were available for snuggling during the fireworks.

Once I had children of my own, I was the one getting the family to grandma’s house, helping her make the potato salad, gathering crepe paper for the bike-decorating, cheering hopefully during the races and spreading out the blanket for fireworks snuggling.

Now — and I don’t know exactly how this happened — my kids drive their families to my house, usually carrying a pre-made potato salad (humph!) and unload the children’s bicycles from the car already decorated. I watch the kids run races, amazed by the speed those skinny little legs can generate, and I would rather sit in a lawn chair than on a blanket on the ground. I am, however, always available for snuggling.

My question is this: since when did I become the grandma? I mean, it hardly seems possible with that memory of my stumbling during the last foot of the race so clear in my mind. Second place… a hollow near-victory!

I also remember my brother using up most of the blue crepe paper for his bicycle, leaving me with red and white. Mine looked like an ambulance! How is that injustice so clear in my mind if I am “grandma?”

Not only that but, aren’t grandparents old? How can I be a grandparent if I’m not old? I mean, I don’t feel old. Well, maybe when it comes to getting up from a blanket on the ground, but otherwise…

I think back on how many fireworks shows I’ve seen and, frankly, it’s quite a few. More than maybe I’d care to admit. Enough to have become a bit choosy about the individual explosions, in fact.

Fireworks have evolved over the years into really spectacular pyrotechnics. More colors have been added (purple!) and they can zip through the air making right angle turns (amazing!). It seems like new fireworks are debuted every year.

I used to like the big orange ones that looked like chrysanthemums, but then they started putting twinkly things on the tips of the “petals,” and I missed the purity of the old ones. Now I lean toward fireworks that spell out words. I like that you have to be quick to read them before they disappear and, anyway, how do they do that? But my all-time favorites are the ones my father calls “duds,” just a loud, fast boom in the air, and then they’re gone. How can they be duds if they’re my favorite?

So, I guess I’ve logged a few decades after all, if marked by the evolution of fireworks technology. It’s sobering. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow the snuggling. That would make me truly old.