Monday, June 27, 2011

Childhood Summer Memories, Part IV

All of the neighbors on Mimosa Drive had a huge block party every year on the Fourth of July.  As a young child, I looked forward to these outdoor social events. A smorgasbord of food could be found on red and white checkered card tables joined perfunctorily in the middle of the street; barbecued links, brisket, hamburgers, chips, cole slaw, potato salad, raw vegetables and fresh fruit. The dessert table was a sinful temptation for all of the women, but it was always where I stopped to fill my plate. The appetizing smells drifting through the thick, humid air always made my mouth water. 

My mom rolled our upright piano out into the street and provided music for everyone.  As the night wore on, people gathered around and sang along. Some danced cheek-to-cheek and moved around like stiff grasshoppers. I never quite understood why the adults grew friendlier and louder, but I did know that those adult beverages I was banned from had something to do with it.

The neighborhood kids and I played hopscotch, roller-skated and jumped rope while we waited for the main event. The summer heat and nagging mosquitoes never stopped us from having a good time, even though I was always the main target.

Sweaty supple skin

A mosquito’s sweet dessert

Temptation buzzing


We spent days practicing for the talent show to be performed for the grown-ups.  One neighbor’s mom was a seamstress, and she loved making elaborate costumes (with our help, of course).  We had so much fun prancing around the animated parents and making them laugh. Their lawn chairs lined the curbs, and we would parade up and down the street like kids on Halloween.

We always stayed up way too late so we could set off fireworks. Boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon.* I was lying in the grass with my friends watching the colorful explosion in the sky when all of the sudden I heard screaming.  In the blink of an eye, all became still and silent.

I looked up to find people hovered around an older boy I did not know.  I ran over to see what all the commotion was about, but my mom stopped me before I could make it through the crowd.

“Don’t come any closer, honey,” she said.

“Why not?  What happened?” I asked.

“A teenager had fireworks explode in his hand and face. He’s badly hurt.  We’re going in now.”

I reluctantly followed my family inside, turning around several times to sneak a peek.  I never got a close look, and I never saw that boy again. I stayed away from firecrackers for many years.

The Fourth of July

fireworks exploding

in his face

@laurie kolp

Prompt inspiration: Poetry Jam- Use lyrics from a song

*Katy Perry, "Firework"


Peggy C. said...

You described so vividly. That sounded like lots of fun (until the accident at the end.) I dislike fireworksvery much for that reason.

Anonymous said...

The beginning was a wonderful walk down memory lane - what I imagine as a great way to celebrate the 4th in a happy close neighborhood ... until the sad ending. Personally handling fireworks always scare me ... I enjoy their dangerous beauty from afar ... however, this season we have a fire ban - so we can only use our imaginations. Great write!

Anonymous said...

forgot to add:

A mosquito’s sweet dessert is an awesome line!!

Laurie Kolp said...

Thank you both! I miss those block parties.

Scarlet said...

You described the party scene clearly like I was there too. Too bad about the boy; I have seen those kind of accidents too.

Nice to meet you~

Mary said...

Laurie, I love reading your childhood reflections. They trigger my own. Fireworks were / are illegal in Wisconsin though, except for sparklers and snakes!! Some people acquired the illegal ones anyway by going to Illinois. I remember sitting in the backyard on 4th of July (often wrapped in a blanket, as it was often cold) and watching the fireworks shot up from a park across the river. I enjoyed this so much. It must have been awful to see the fireworks explode in the boy's face. Wisconsin has good reason for outlawing them.

Unknown said...

A wonderful story of the glories of summer and the tragedies that can be. Well written

Karen said...

Ah, summer! Great story.Love the mosquito lines.

Ahkenaten Kor said...

We didn't have grass to lay on in NYC back then, as we lived in an apartment building. We'd go on my sister's big bed and watch the fireworks from her window while she and my parents watched TV. Your description of the times makes me wish I had a nice backyard instead to layy back and enjoy the collusion of nature and man-made sparkles in the sky.

Brian Miller said...

a scary reality, saw it happen once as a kid...your description of the party invites us into it...and nice blend of prose and poetry and Katy Perry...i enjoy that song...

Helen said...

I'm trying to visualize a piano being rolled out of the house and into the street ~ what an image it must have been. All of your memories so vivid, and a reminder of the real dangers posed by fireworks.