July 4, 2010

Marty and Jim's Excellent Adventure

The baby was a little fussy, so I held him a little longer in the rocker before I put him asleep into his Sears and Roebuck crib. His father and grandfather assembled the crib on the day we moved into our "new to us" house two weeks before the baby arrived.

He was a good baby, free of colic, and generally staying on a good schedule. Now three months old, he was starting to laugh more and show his own personality.

We decided not to take him "into town" for the fireworks. Our little village didn't have any of their own, so we would have to fight the traffic with 50,000 people twelve miles away.

Outside we could hear a few of the neighbors shooting bottle rockets and making noise. I wasn't too excited with the thought of bottle rockets flying over our tiny house in this neighborhood where all the houses were just yards apart. We had only been here since March, and didn't really know all the neighbors yet.

When darkness came that night, the random pop-pop-pops of the firecrackers turned into boom-boom-booms.

The baby woke up and began to scream loudly.

I hadn't been paying much attention to the outside. I stepped out on the front porch, curious to find out where the noise came from. Our street was filled with people in lawn chairs looking to the east, where the Two Messiahs of July Fourth plied their trade. Cars lined both sides of the street and every driveway -- including ours -- was filled.

Soon a spectacular show of lights appeared from mid-street, down near where Marty lived with his wife and four sons. Between the intermittent sparks of light and smoke, I could see Marty as Carnival Barker and our adjacent neighbor Jim gleefully lighting fireworks from a huge cache on the ground.

They gave a party, and nobody told us. Meanwhile the baby screamed louder and louder and the cat hid under the couch.

Boom. Rat-ta-ta-tat. Boom. Boom.

Don't ever mess with a new mother. Lactating and hormones can make them get their dander up.

What to do?

I was not a good neighbor. I was pissed and like a mother bear, I was protecting my cub. I turned on every light in our house, thus making our castle shine brightly in the summer darkness. This had the affect of marring the view of our closest neighbors, which was a really crappy thing to do.

It was a long night -- because baby screamed for a long time, upset by the sound and fury. Eventually we met the two neighborhood bad boys and found out they did this every year. People came from all over our little village for Jim and Marty's Excellent Adventure.

They forgave me for lighting my house, and they became two of our best neighbors on our little street. We lived there only six years, and the house got too small. About ten years later, our village started its own holiday display over the river.

We now live about a mile away from that neighbor, and I swear if I look to the west late on the fourth of July, I'll see Jim and Marty's handiwork in the sky.