A Suitcase Full of Fireworks

July 4th is definitely my favorite holiday. My younger brother's birthday is July 3rd, so Independence Day was always a celebration in my house. One of my strongest childhood memories is running down a country road on the 4th in Buttonwillow, California, where we lived when I was a kid. My entire family (which is a lot of people on my mom and dad's sides) gathered at our house to celebrate my brother's birthday AND the massive fireworks show my parents promised.

My mom was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and near her family home is a fireworks factory. Back in the 80s (aka before the TSA was on the scene) my mom took an extra suitcase with us to Oklahoma. Turns out that extra bag was stuffed with fireworks of every kind imaginable to bring back home.

I'm not just talking sparklers here-these were fancy bottle rockets in all colors. Roman candles that sounded like cannons when they exploded. Whistling Pete's that pierced your eardrums along with their light shower—my running memory is actually of me trying to get away from a Pete my slightly older cousin had taken the base off of, lit, and threw in the air. I was convinced it was chasing me.

July 4th 2013 at Duboce Park! Chubby cheeks galore.

July 4th 2013 at Duboce Park! Chubby cheeks galore.

Thanks to that suitcase full of fireworks we had mega shows for years in the country. We lived across from and next to huge cotton fields, the same ones my parents and grandparents picked when they were young, and later bought themselves when they'd saved enough money. So the danger was, um, minimal?

My mom died last May, a few months after Mia was born. In going through her estate we found we'd inherited some of the farmland that was the site of those fireworks shows. And when my sister and I were cleaning up her house I stumbled across a bag full of—you guessed it—fireworks. I thought that stash from the 80s had to be long gone, but it turned out my mom had saved some. It was a great  reminder of my mom's spirit, especially at a time when I had so many dreams and plans for my family, and so many fears around executing them. Mom wasn't a daredevil by any means, but she did take risks. This was a woman who smuggled rubles out of the USSR in her Afro in the 60s. And then there's the whole flying with fireworks thing.

For the past few years I've missed out on July 4th fireworks. Two years ago I was in my first trimester and fell asleep at a sadly early hour, and last year I had a little baby to nurse to sleep. So this year we're making up for it, hanging with family for a block party BBQ and (legal) fireworks show. Wherever you are today, happy July 4th to you and yours, and may you have great fireworks today and everyday!