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Thursday, July 24, 2014, 1:31 a.m.
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Duds and delights — the Fourth

By Tammy Keith

This article was published July 13, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Our Fourth of July fireworks would seem a little amateur and dinky to some people.

In our minds, they were great, though.

I left my son on his 21st birthday that Friday, after having a nice lunch with him and giving him a few presents — including a sampler pack of root beer — and headed to my parents’ house.

Fourth of July is my dad’s favorite holiday, and I remember always having fireworks as we were growing up. One thing I remember doing is wrapping a bunch of firecrackers in newspaper and lighting the whole thing on fire out in the street in front of our house — my dad’s idea.

My 3-year-old nephew, Seb, was excited about the holiday. He’d already helped decorate his daddy’s golf cart as a surprise, and they rode it in a little neighborhood parade.

He was beside himself about doing fireworks, and hearing “we need to wait till it gets dark” was excruciating.

Plus, we were in northeast Arkansas, where the mosquitoes will carry you away after dark.

So, we assembled our little pile of fireworks on the tailgate of my dad’s truck and started our show.

My mom came outside dressed in a big floppy hat, long-sleeved shirt, pants, socks and my dad’s slip-on Dallas Cowboys shoes — mosquito protection.

We started with that perennial favorite — sparklers. My sister-in-law was excited about the brand, because when she was growing up, these were “the best.”

I was hoping for the colored smoke bombs because the intense colors of the smoke are magical to me somehow, even now.

We lit the sparklers, and they were duds. I usually do a little majorette routine with mine. My sister-in-law likes to “write” her name with them, but they fizzled too fast.

They lasted for-ev-er when we were kids, we all said. We complained that even the punks to light them with aren’t good these days.

My husband made the Christmas Vacation reference: “The little lights … they aren’t twinkling, Clark.”

Seb was still a little miffed about a firework shaped like a tank that he’d set off the day before.

“My truck broke,” he told us a couple of times.

“Fireworks are not toys,” my sister-in-law said, and Seb dutifully repeated it. Still, he liked that truck.

One of the coolest fireworks we had was an aircraft carrier that moved, and when it popped, it sent out a little tank.

The word “cool” was said a lot. I remember Seb running from the fireworks when they were lit as fast as his skinny little 3-year-old legs could carry him to jump in his chair. I have pictures of the awe and delight on his little face.

He even clapped for the duds that disappointed the rest of us.

Some of the most fun fireworks, after exploding, had little parachutes that floated down. Seb got two, but two more got caught way, way up in the trees.

Another one had a little Army man attached to it, and Seb spent about an hour wadding it up like he was shown to do, tossing it into the air and letting it come down again. Simple, pure joy.

We got the streamers that were attached to the parachutes, and we all did a little “ribbon dancing” with them.

Seb marched to my attempt at singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” for which I’m ashamed to say I forgot the words. My husband knew every line, though.

When the mosquitoes became Jumanji-like, we went inside.

At dinner, my mom told the required story about the firework that chased me one time. I remember it. I ran through a ditch and down the street, and wherever I turned, it followed.

My brother and sister-in-law went the next day to buy more of our favorites, some of which were sold out, but the next brand of sparklers seemed to last longer.

I did my majorette routine. My sister-in-law “wrote” her name. My mother asked my sister-in-law if she’d ever heard the story about my mom twirling a fire baton in high school.

The nostalgia was as thick as the smoke.

A Roman candle was fairly impressive for our little show, and one firework landed, still burning, under my sister-in-law’s car. She jumped in to move the car, because that was an explosion we didn’t want to see.

My dad laughed and said, “Be careful” a few times.

We were all a little sad when it came to an end.

My brother said that when Seb grows up, he’ll probably remember, “Man, those fireworks I had as a kid went so high!”

Yes, he will. And how wonderful something is in our memories is really the only thing that matters.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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