Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Daze

I always love Fourth of July weekend, especially now since my daughter’s birthday is the day before. Usually we’re in San Diego, as we have a family reunion once a year during this time at my aunt and uncle’s house. But this year, my cousin and his wife had a baby (another Cancer, which seems to run in our family in the newest generation), so the trip was put off indefinitely. This year, for the first time since I can remember, I spent Fourth of July in Birmingham.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a firework just as much as the next person. They’re pretty, loud, great at gathering people together, usually include a barbecue and adult beverages—what’s not to love! Let me explain.

Fourth of July celebrations in San Diego are not quite the same as they are here. First, it’s California, and any little spark, especially in the heat of July, can ignite a wildfire that could essentially wipe out all life in Southern California. So fireworks are regulated, and their use is strictly enforced. At my aunt and uncle’s house, we sit on the back patio with our meal and adult beverage, and enjoy the regulated yet wildly beautiful fireworks show blaze across the canyon.

Now, let me tell you about Fourth of July celebrations in Chelsea, Alabama. Growing up (in Birmingham, not Chelsea, which is still considered “a little bit country”), I remember always going to regulated fireworks shows and having the occasional sparkler or string of loud crackers to enjoy at home. But in Chelsea (as I learned this holiday), the extremely loud, easily-mistaken-for-a-shotgun-blast firecrackers begin a day or two before the Fourth (as I’m writing this right now the day after the Fourth, I hear loud booms at least every couple of minutes, no doubt our neighbors getting rid of what they didn’t have time to blow up last night). Not knowing whether a bullet could whiz across our yard or there was an overly enthusiastic Fourth of July celebrator getting a jump on the holiday, (we have some unincorporated land behind our property on which you can do pretty much anything and nothing legally can be done about it), I kept my kid indoors. Last night, the Fourth, there were some loud pops here and there before dark, but nothing major or worrisome. But when that sun went down (well after my kid did), the fireworks renegades came out of the woodwork, and all hell broke loose!

Initially, we went out and watched. I love my country and want to celebrate its birthday as much as the next person. At first, I wasn’t too concerned about it waking my daughter since she refused to nap that day and was dead tired. How long could it last anyway? How little I knew.

As hour upon hour went by without cessation, I started to get a little bent. I mean, it was ridiculously loud and directly above our house! There was much debate in the household about whether this was legal (being Chelsea, we guessed it probably was), and I was pretty sure it wasn’t safe, as I watched sparks waft down into our trees and had to cover my nose and mouth when outside to filter the thick layer of smoke that had surrounded the house. Did I mention the three terrified dogs that huddled together in a hairy lump on the bed?

Finally, after many hours, a few trips out into the ’hood to search for culprits (who must have seen us and known we were none too thrilled because it became deathly quiet when we neared certain dwellings), and a call to the sheriff’s office to find out if these full-blown pyrotechnics shows were legal and safe, the light-filled booms finally ceased. (Yes, it’s legal in good ol’ Chelsea to set off any number, any sized fireworks you’d like at anytime. I think you could set off a bomb and get away with it out here!)

Kensie never did wake up during the chaos, and I attribute that to the nap she refused to take during the day and to her hitting the sack at 7 o’clock. I was thankful for that at the time, but at 4 a.m. when she awoke and was wide awake and ready to face the day head-on, I cursed Fourth of July in Chelsea, Alabama, and this newfound, two-year-old stubbornness that has recently, no more than a couple of days after K’s actual birthday, reared its ugly head.

Next year, I’m headed to SoCal!