As American As Corndogs

4th of July, 2005-6? (The year is questionable.)

Every July 4th since we moved to our house in San Antonio, we’ve always seemed to be that family with the most and loudest fireworks on the block. We’re certainly not the only ones with fireworks in the neighborhood though. The whole neighborhood turns out whenever fireworks are involved and it’s quite a show! Most holidays it feels like one big prize-less fireworks competition in the neighborhood.

Our family just knows to come over for the holiday and everyone brings a little something whether it’s meats for grilling or a dessert for afterwards. We’ll all spend the day grilling and hanging out. The men are usually outside enjoying the summer sunshine and the ladies… we stay inside. Don’t get me wrong. Us ladies aren’t staying in because of some dumb gender stereotype. PUH-LEASE… Have you ever been in Texas during the summer? We’re not crazy. We’re inside because there’s air conditioning!

For my family, this separation is also a sort of unofficial tradition during holidays like a “rite of passage” for the younger men and women.

Here’s why:

For the guys, it’s like this. This Texas heat is killer. That’s just a fact, then adding to that, there is a charcoal grill going non-stop. There’s no way any inexperienced person could last very long with those two realities. The men in my family are out there though. All. Day. Even after the food is done and the flames of the grill are slowly flickering as they are extinguished. Grilling usually starts at noon or so. The normal temp about that time is about 90+ and the high reaches pretty close to 100+ around 4 o’clock. So if you can survive the heat and get along pretty well with the guys, then… you’re family. Not too difficult.

For the women, well… women in my family are… well… WOMEN. In the midst of all the chopping and slicing and peeling, no one can stay quiet for too long. There’s chatter happening from all sides. Plus the TV is usually blasting in the living room right across the kitchen. Imagine all the racket! Now imagine it in Spanish! Craziness! Hahaha!!! For the ladies it’s a different kind of heat. It goes back to the old saying, “if you can’t stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen.”

Despite all of that or more like because of all that, our family gatherings are always pretty lively. Food, drinks, laughter, LOTS of laughter, more laughter, and the occasional tear, pretty much sum up most of my family gatherings.

This particular year, there was no extra family or friends over or food on the grill. My sister was out of town for a conference or maybe spending the holiday with her friends (I can’t really recall which.) It was one of those odd years where the 4th fell on a week day so it was only going to be me and my parents. It seemed a little lonesome, but my dad and I could make do. It helps that we can stand each other for more than an hour so I brought home a 12 pack and my dad made a simple dinner for us- hot dogs.

Once it got dark, we went outside and sat the bed of my dad’s red Ford Ranger. Staring down the street, we waited while drinking our beer. We waited and talked… about that one year when my Tio (Uncle) grabbed a string of Blackcat firecrackers, lit them, and started spinning them around  in the middle of the street! How we had so many fireworks that we got too tired to finished lighting them so we saved them for the next holiday. That one New Year’s Eve when a bottle rocket flew right into my dad’s back! Thank goodness it was cold and he had his jacket on! That one year we went over to one of my sister’s friend’s house for New Year’s Eve and they had a really nice fire pit going for everyone outside. We roasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate while watching the other kids pop fireworks.

That’s when we heard it.

The sounds of the fireworks flying up…

                                                                          up…

                                                                                             up…

                                                                                                                into the sky.

 

We heard the whistles they made as they shot up… then suddenly…

 

BOOM!!!

 

It was a clear night too. Perfect for fireworks and we had had the best seats in the house that night. Staring down our street and up into the sky we could see all the fireworks that went off for the entire neighborhood and it’s a pretty big neighborhood. There were all sorts of flowers and sprays and colors and blossoms and whistles and BOOMS!!! Red, gold, blue, green, red and blue, green and gold, purple and white, small crackles, deafening booms, whistle after whistle, glittery tail after glittery tail- it seemed to go on for hours. Even on TV, I hadn’t seen such a spectacular fireworks show.

I thought of my grandmother who despite my never being able to understand a word she said, never let it stop her from caring for me in her own way. We still understood each other somehow. I thought of my grandfather who I’d hardly known, but who had always treated me with such warmth and welcome. I thought of my mother and sister and how we’ve always been together- The Garcia Girls. The three of us against the world, head first. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Fireworks make me happy; genuinely happy as in the dopey smile, teary eyed, and going around hugging everyone kind of happy. That doesn’t happen often from me. I don’t know how to explain it, but fireworks make me feel grateful to be alive and have such wonderful people around me. I honestly don’t remember when the show was finally over. I know my dad and I had finished most of the beer.

To this day, that July 4th had been, hands down, the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen. Thinking back on it now, I hope I never forget it. It was a small span of time, but it seemed like forever. I had been allowed the honor of an exclusive and unbridled view of something wonderfully beautiful and momentous, designed specifically for me and my family by our creator and only to be seen at that moment. It was (and still is when I think about it) absolutely overwhelming.

“You’re over-romanticizing the moment.”

I can see why you’d think that.

“It’s just fireworks,” you might say.

True. I have no other excuse, but that deep down in my heart of hearts I’m a romantic person.

The truth is moments like this help me to remember how small we are as humans and how much smaller our problems are in comparison to the wonderful and joyous moments we have sometimes.  These kind of rare moments help me to remember that even though we may not all be together, we are never apart. As an Army brat, you thinks about things like this. Honestly, I hope I get to tell this story every year our family gets together for a holiday when fireworks are involved for a very long time.

Thanks for letting me share it with you.

NOTE: I updated this post a bit from when I first published it because 1) it was 1 in the morning and my memory wasn’t a great as I thought was regarding some small, but important facts such as where my mother was that night and 2) I removed the picture I had originally used because I didn’t have permission yet from my family members included in it. Manners are a must. THANKS!