Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fireworks and Christmas Trees




Continued from A Portrait in Words

My first grade teacher lived in a ranch-style, red brick house kitty-corner across the street from me on Kingston Road. On the Fourth of July, the town of Kokomo would have a fireworks display at Highland Park, and we thought her backyard was the place you could see them best.

The neighborhood kids would show up to the hill out back of her house lugging blankets and folding chairs along with snacks. We’d camp out there watching for the sky to get dark and the fireworks to begin. I went back as an adult, and the hill that seemed so big to me as a kid now looks like a small rise just beyond the back porch steps.

Next to our house on the south side there used to be a vacant lot where I caught butterflies with a butterfly net made out of a mop handle, a wire hanger and a pillowcase. The house on the other side of the lot belonged to close friends of ours. One Fourth of July we went over to the neighbor’s fenced-in back yard and watched as one of the older kids put firecrackers inside tin cans to shoot them way up in the air.

It was terrific fun, but every year we would read in the paper about someone who was injured while playing with fireworks. Our parents would go “tsk, tsk, tsk,” and the next year we’d shoot off fireworks out in the driveway and wave our sparklers just like we did every year. Luckily none of us were ever hurt. 


The most amazing fireworks I remember were the ones our young family watched from the Capitol Mall in Washington D.C. when our country turned 200 years old in 1976. The Mall was a mass of people wearing everything from shirts and slacks made from the Stars and Stripes to barefooted women in bikini bathing suits carrying flags. 

We spread our blanket in a good spot and took turns walking around the Mall to see all the people, while either my husband or I stayed to guard our blanket and the picnic stuff we brought. 


When the celebration was over we hopped on a bus to the Pentagon where we had parked our station wagon, put our three ragamuffins to bed in the back and went to sleep until the traffic cleared. Then, we drove home to Annandale, Virginia. Our three kids each got a U.S. flag that had been flown for a few seconds over the Capitol on that historic day. 

One year the kids and I drove all the way to Indiana from Arizona to see my folks in Kokomo. On the way home to Phoenix, we stopped in a state that still allowed fireworks to be sold. We picked up bottle rockets, sparklers, and firecrackers. 

On the Fourth of July we shot off fireworks in our backyard. A police officer came to our front door and politely asked us to “cut it out!” Our fireworks fun was now illegal! Of course, I knew that, but thought I could get away with it. Luckily, I didn’t get a ticket or arrested. 

Putting Up the Christmas Tree

The house on Kingston Road had a crawl space beneath it with a dirt floor and spider webs. It provided access to pipes and electrical boxes under the house. In other words, we didn’t have a basement. 

In the early 1950s we always purchased a nice fat Christmas tree with long needles. I thought Grandma and Grandpa Thomas couldn’t afford a nice Christmas tree like ours down at the house in Sharpsville. Their tree always had short needles and was very sparse. 

Looking back, I can see they just preferred a different kind of tree. Grandma always placed presents on the limbs of the tree where they were easy for the kids to see.

We loaded up our tree with all kinds of decorations including silver icicles and a big star to top it off.  We even had bubble lights with tubes that showed bubbles going up and down inside them. The other big green, red, blue and white tree bulbs would get hot after awhile, so we had to be very careful about leaving them on too long. Just think, before people had electric lights they used candles to light their trees! 


Our tree was usually short and fat. Daddy would put it up on a table so people could see it through our front windows from the outside. However, this particular year, we bought a tall, fat tree. Daddy sawed the trunk off straight and attached an x-shaped tree stand to it. After we finished putting all the decoration on the tree, it began to lean precariously to one side. 

Daddy kept adjusting the stand and working hard to keep the tree from leaning. Eventually, he got so frustrated that he crawled under the house in the crawl space and nailed that tree to the living room floor, right up through the carpeting! That sure fixed it! We never got tired of telling that story over and over again.

My life is wrapped in the fabric of stories like these. What stories make up the quilt of your life?  Remember to put them in writing. Future generations will bless you for it.