I love the 4th of July. What a great day. Does it really get any better than taking a whole day to celebrate kicking the limey’s back to their foggy little island across the pond? And to do it with fatty meats, sticky sweets, and moderately controlled artillery demonstrations? No, I don’t think it does.
Last years Independence Day saw Jen and I in the great state of Indiana where thanks to sweltering summer humidity the countryside stays green all summer through. Why is that so important? Because it means the fire danger is low and every red-blooded American male, pyromaniacs all, in the region gets to play Hollywood pyrotechnics guy. And oh how we played last year. My dad bought a monster package of fireworks and we thrilled ourselves for a solid hour launching our mortars and our miniature howitzers into the dark mid-Western sky. I think the rest of the family had their fill after about ten minutes, but not dad and I. We could have gone until the dawn patrol called us in. Living in amongst the seas of dry grass in California we don’t get to have this kind of fun but once every several years. So we live it to the hilt. In Santa Rosa even the “safe and sane” fireworks are banned. You know, the really dangerous ones like Piccolo Petes, sparklers, and the spinning ground flowers. So these days, if we’re not in a perpetually green state Jen and I usually make our way to the county fair grounds to watch the annual Red, White, and Boom fireworks display. Its usually a pretty good show, except for a couple years ago when one mortar went up and then came down…and then exploded. That year wasn’t so good.
This year was something a little different. Our church’s family camp, at a place called Hartstone up on the Eel River was this past week and a lot of our friends were spending the week there, so we decided to check it on the 4th. Growing up I spent at least one week of every summer at Hartstone, usually more, for probably about a fifteen year period. The last time I was there was about six years ago, so I was excited to go back and relive some of those good ol’ days. I spent some time down at the river, but mostly just sat around and relaxed all day. Though I was forced to hold a baby.
OK, quick aside for a moment….
Several years ago when our friends Matt and Robin started having the first of their eventual seven children, a group of us were chatting after church or something and passing around one of R and M’s newborns when someone asked if I would like to hold the baby. I politely declined. It’s not that I don’t like babies or are afraid of them, but I just don’t see the fascination in holding one just for the sake of holding one. I don’t know, maybe I’m just odd, but its just not my thing. Why not just pick up a ten pound bag of flour? Still makes your lap sweaty and a smaller chance of eruptions. Over the course of the next several years people would ask if I wanted to “hold the baby” and I would always decline. Then my wife started making a big deal about it, saying I was declining because I liked all the attention I got when people would say, “Ah, c’mon hold the baby, why don’t you want to hold the baby, are you afraid of the baby, c’mon just once, HOLD THE BABY!!” when I would have been quite content to be left alone. It’s not like I would walk into a room and say, “Attention everybody! I will not be holding the baby today! Thank you!”
Anyway, last September at my high school reunion, at which several old classmates had their infant children, Jen, my lovely, dear wife Jen, declared to all that I wouldn’t hold babies. So of course, someone had to make it there mission to “cure” me from this “phobia.” I was sitting on a picnic bench when my friend Danny put his toddler on my lap and said, “You better grab him, cuz I’m walking away.” Before I knew it I was playing Santa Claus to a lap full of two year olds. Ever since then friends have found it simply hilarious to sneak up on me and stick their kid in my lap. Good times.
Alright, that wasn’t quick at all. Where was I? Ah yes, Hartstone.
That evening everyone headed down to the nearest sizable burgh, Ukiah, CA, to watch the biggest and best fireworks display slightly south of Lake Mendocino. Not wanting to pay the exorbidant $5 fee to enter the fairgrounds, we all set up camp in the Raley’s parking lot, complete with camp chairs and about sixty pairs of flip-flops. The Santa Rosa Bible Church white trash factor was pretty much off the charts at that moment. But it was a decent show for Mendocino county and a good time was had by all. I had to work the next morning so Jen and I trekked back down Highway 101 toward home, satisfied with another successfully celebrated Independence Day.