Hamburgers. Hot dogs. Fireworks. Parades.
To all of us here in the US, these things symbolize the 4th of July. The day when we adopted The Declaration of Independence and broke away from our mother – cheery old England.
Not that Mom was so bad, but it was time to go out on our own. Start our own customs and laws.
And one of those customs includes shooting off fire crackers and lighting the sky with explosions of color.
I have fond memories of my dad along with the other fathers on our block, lighting ground snakes that sizzled into nothingness, fountains that sprayed higher than our houses and of course, the ever popular sparkler, used to terrorize your sibling and write your name in the air.
But although those celebrations stand out in my mind, nothing can compare to the 4th of July I experienced a few decades ago.
We lived across the street from a college which put on a fireworks show every year. Now, because we did live right across the street, we would gather on the railroad tracks which ran behind our house. From there we could see the fireworks.
Of course, we couldn’t hear the patriotic music or hear any of the freedom speeches. But it was free and we were free to drink the beverage of our choice – an ice cold beer, a glass of wine or in my case, an ice cold martini.
So there we were – kids oohing and ahhing at the exploding sky, dogs cowering in fear under our seats, parents talking and sipping their drinks when suddenly the air seemed to stand still.
Of to my right, I saw something huge. Something that didn’t belong that low in the sky.
My mind jumped to that popular expression: It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman.
Well, in this case, it WAS a plane!
At first I thought it was a huge 747 coming toward us. As it got closer, I realized is was only a small two-seater. But still- a plane? Using our neighborhood congregation as a landing zone.
Utter chaos ensued. I grabbed my daughter, the dog, my drink, my husband (in that order) and amidst shouts and screams ran for cover along with everyone else.
Miraculously, the pilot managed to land safely in the middle of the street.
While the rest of us, were left shaking in our boots, he climbed out, shouting. “Long live the Queen.” Moments later, he was handcuffed and hauled off.
I silently wished he could have been taken to the castle dungeon.
Looney as he was, the pilot left us all unscathed and free to go about our lives, free to watch many more 4th of July fireworks shows.
Most of them have paled in comparison to that evening.
How about you? Any exciting stories to share?