July 3, 2011

Greetings From Fort McHenry

This is our sixteenth July Fourth weekend in our present house. When we moved here, our son was still in the “sparkler” stage. After a few sparklers and lighting black “Magic Snakes” on the concrete driveway, we loaded up our folding Chairs-in-a-Bag and headed to the Ohio River bank for an evening of fireworks and fellowship.

We’ve always had a great time on the Fourth celebrating the American spirit, as well as the ingenuity of Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite.  (And, of course, the Twilight Zone marathon.)

I remember coming home one year from the local fireworks and getting into our pool. Under the moonlight, I drifted on my blue plastic floaty all over, while husband and son floated as well. Peace. Perfection. The only sound was the twinkling of stars above.

Bang! Boom! A whooshing sound like something out of the TV show MASH blew up above us. I waited to hear Radar O’Reilly yell, “Incoming” as a bottle rocket missed my head by six inches. That fiery lighted satellite came from our young neighbor, who has long since moved away.

Seems we’ve lived here long enough to cycle through an entire generation of children.

I don’t know what’s different -- but this year it’s been like living at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 where Frances Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner. Key noted in his verse, after a long night of shelling by the British in Baltimore Harbor, that “our flag was still there.”

Our pool is also long gone, but the new crop of neighbors have a passel of young rocket scientists who are shelling all around us. Is it louder than ever before because I’m an Empty Nester and am old and cranky? My poor cat has been hiding under the bed all night (earlier in the evening we had a fireworks show by Mother Nature, that gave us two incredible hours of lightning and thunder.

Tonight we've had shelling from every direction since the rain stopped (going on three hours now), but there has been at least thirty minutes of boom-boom-booms every night since Memorial Day. "Back in my day" said the Cranky Old Woman, my parents would not have spent that much money on fireworks. Nor did we spend that much for our child.   Thirty minutes to an hour of illegal fireworks that my grandparents bought in Tennessee was always sufficient when I was a kid, and we didn't do much more for our own child.

My theory is that the economy is so awful that people aren't going on vacation, and buy their kids this amateur dynamite to make up for it.

The shelling is coming from all around us. I’m thinking about putting the 1812 Overture on the stereo, because I swear I would not be surprised to hear cannons, just like at the climatic end of Tchaikovsky’s tribute to the Napoleonic invasion of Russia.

I sent my husband out on the deck with night-vision goggles and a scope just to protect our interest, and see what he could see.  He reported back that our neighbor's lighted flagpole still proudly flies the Stars and Stripes.  "Their flag is still there!" 

Happy Fourth everybody!