Independence day is a holiday when we are supposed to celebrate our nation's founding fathers, and revel a bit in the liberty their courage and foresight has bestowed upon us, be we Republican, Democrat, or hedgehog. (long live the Hedgehog liberation front!)
Me, I think of my Grandpa... Joseph Ferdinando. Grandpa was a tough, self made man, who started his own company with his own two hands and his wits, and built it into a thriving plumbing company. Of course time and distance dulls one's memory, but there are two things that always make me think of him... Magic tricks and the Fourth of July.
Jay, Grandpa and me circa 1978
Grandpa loved the Fourth, and every year, would go completely overboard arming his friends and family with enough fireworks to blow a conneticut-sized hole in the eastern seaboard. This always included my brother and I, who were in hindsight, way too young to be playing with fire, much less explosives. It was a much different time. I still remember the year I lit a pack of Jumpin Jacks in my hand, intent on throwing them in the direction that my brother suddenly blocked, and me, with my head ringing with my Mom telling me just moments before to make sure Jay didn't get hurt, let the pack explode in my hand. If it had been firecrackers I probably would have lost a finger, but I only got a few third degree burns and a lecture.
Grandpa only gave us "safety" fireworks after that, but that may have been more due to my Favorite Grandpa story, which I think was the following year...
It had been a dry summer in the big apple, and we had all settled down after an afternoon of barbequing on the front lawn of 81 Ravenhurst to watch the old, drunk italians shoot off the "big" fireworks. There were fountains... there were high altitude splashers, and there were pinwheels.
One such pinwheel surprised everyone when, after Grandpa lit it, it flew off the telephone pole, and into one of the two bushes that adorned the front walk of Grandpa's house.
I had always thought till that point that "Fwoosh" was just a sound in a comic book.
The Bush burst into flames. One of my Uncles (I don't remember which) was a quick thinker, and through the haze of beer that had been steadily imparing his judgement all day, thought to throw the cooler on the fire to try to put it out.
The cooler filled with cans of beer. That started exploding due to the heat. Adding alcohol to the fire.
No one had called the fire department, but no one was surprised when they arrived, as we were sure that those Astronauts in Skylab probably noticed the flames (which were at least 50 feet in the air) and radioed them. They just let it burn itself out, forever leaving a bush-shaped hole in Grandpa's lawn for all time.
I also rememeber my Mom getting quite the glare from Grandpa after making a "burning bush" joke or two, and Dad trying really hard not to just burst into fits of laughter.
Happy fourth of july to all of you, and may your memories be as interesting :)