Friday, July 2, 2010

"It's Friday & I'm in Love" Fourth of July Christmas Trees.

2009's Fourth of July

Growing up there was one holiday in our house.  Christmas.  My mom loves everything about it.  She has one Christmas sweater to wear on each day of December.  Truth be told, she probably has enough to wear from the middle of November until New Year's Day.  I'm not a huge fan of Christmas.  I hate putting it up & I hate pulling it down.  My hatred has dwindle since having children, but I will never reach my Mother's fanatic love of Christmas.

When I met Mark, he introduced two "new" holidays: Halloween & Fourth of July.  I'd guess that Halloween is his big one.  Why?  Our basement & garage are stuffed full of severed heads, limbs, & hands.  Plastic ones, but severed & bloody.  We've got more Bucky skeletons than one house should own.  And I shouldn't even know what a "Bucky skeleton" is, but I do & I deal with it.  This is about the time of year that we begin whittling down our 2010 Halloween costume ideas.  I'm hoping he doesn't read this because he might start asking & I hate those conversation.  Sexy Alien chick & astronaut?  No.  Zombie Mom?  No.  Sexy garbage collector?  No.  You get it.  The kids get it too.  My all-time favorite daycare question came three years ago in September.  "Umm, Erika?  Cooper said, 'My Daddy has a bunch of dead guys in the basement.  Want to explain?" his teacher asked taking a few steps back.  "Oh.  Those are this year's decorations he's working on." I explained without thought or worry.  Without that embarrassment or second thought, it was that point when I knew Halloween was becoming our family's holiday.  I don't love it, but I've come to accept it.

Second "new" holiday was Fourth of July.  Growing up, we watched firework displays but that's where it stopped.  Jill hates fireworks, so we actually watched less than most families.  But I never felt slighted.  It was any other summer night.  Over 13 years ago, Mark asked if I wanted to go to his family's Fourth party.  Why not?  We were a couple & that's what couples do.  He warned me that this is their big one.  Explained some of the pranks from year's past.  Bottle rockets planted under chairs.  Bottle rockets in make-shift guns pointed at you. Plastic on top of the pool.  A group jumps in & whoever gets out the fastest, wins.  Wicks exposed.  Lighters in hands of babes.  Sparklers waved all day.  One year, they filled a balloon with hydrogen or helium or some bad explosive gas (don't ask how they get stuff.  They just do).  My FIL walks over & lights a make-shift wick.  When it exploded, the windows shook & my MIL ran to him.  It's folklore that my FIL was thrown into the air & had Nam flashbacks, but no one will confirm that one.  He doesn't like to talk about it.

It's tradition, people.

By the time I showed up, it was tame.  Maybe one too many accidents.  Maybe the clan had matured.  But then my FIL had a grand idea.  His Christmas tree had been sitting in the garage all year.  It had died a thousand times over.  The hot sun could have set this thing on fire.  "Why not decorate it with firework 'ornaments' & set it on fire?" he thought.  And so they did.  Every year, a huge group carefully fills the tree with bottle rockets & other small trinkets.  It's always topped with a spinning star.  The adults supervise & the kids poke.  One year, we had two.  A line connected them & a plane powered by more fireworks set the second on fire.  The trees are always finished with a generous splashing of lighter fluid.  Mark has helped light a few of the trees.  I have visions of him trying to get it restarted (that always happens & is never safe) & a stray (aren't they all) bottle rocket hitting him in the eye.  We all sit back very far, but still I wonder if we're far enough.

Last year, was my favorite year.  My FIL put a lot of thought into the starting of the Fourth Tree.  He didn't tell anyone.  And when it was ready to go, he walked out in costume to send 2009's tree to Christmas Tree Heaven.  My BIL filmed it & Mark created a movie for the family.  A long time ago, I spent a lot of time explaining the tree: No they are a trashy family!  Ok, I get it.  It's kind of weird.  It's sort of safe.  It's fun.  I promise.  You just have to see it.  Because I've learned to embrace their Fourth too, I'll share.  Enjoy.  Because come Sunday, I'll be watching the real thing.  I know you're jealous.

They're much safer now. I've never seen the plastic wrap pool thing. They have a sparkler line with a huge bucket of water sitting near the adults. Babes don't have lighters & the bottle rocket launch-spot is designated.  Everyone brings chairs & a side dish.  You find a spot & sit with your family.  You catch up on everything between one Fourth of July to the current one.  The tree decorating begins.  Adults & kids get giddy about how this year's will go up.  Everyone gathers & you watch it burn.  Back to the circles of family.  More catch-up time.  And when sun starts to dip, you find the bug spray & move your spot.  Everyone gets ready & strangers start to show up.  The last sparkler is used & the Puppy Chow is passed out.  And then the Fireworks are carted out & become organized.  These aren't regular backyard fireworks.  No.  Mark's uncle is too dedicated for those pussy ones.  These are the real deal kind.  The kind you'd find in a community's display.  Or in a secret spot in the back of a tractor trailer located in a parking lot.  And just when you think it can't get any darker, they start.  Last year, Becks hated it.  And I'm not sure how it will go this year.  We'll use the 2010's Christmas tree as our measuring stick.  Someday he'll fall in love with it.  Because it's in his blood. 

Happy Fourth!  However you celebrate it, I hope it's safe & exciting.


  1. And if it's not in his blood, he can come visit me any 4th of July he wants. Hate, hate, hate this holiday . . . not that I hate freedom or independence or sparklers. I hate loud noises. Those assinine water cannons? What the fuck?! Multiple "cheap fireworks" stores on a block? Really? Really.

    But enjoy the Puppy Chow!

  2. oh girl, that is hilarious!!! i love the cowboy trench coat and rifle!!! i need to show this to my brother in law. we have a big fireworks show down, i mean display, every year. he usually burns his eyebrows off and someone gets pretty singed. we light them off the dock and the rest of the family sits on the bank of the lake at a safe distance. ;) thanks for the laugh this morning. i loved it.♥
    ~cinco_mom aka. mary ;)

  3. lol, the story has me smiling.
    I am pyrophobic, so this holiday does not leave me warm and fuzzy, but I can't deny my 8 yo some firecrackers and bottlerockets (please don't aim them at your cousins, you'll put their eyes out!)and sparklers for my 3 yo. I hope it stops there, but their daddy is probably a distant relative of your husbands, he would love your 4th of July tradition/spectacle--no SPECTACULAR!


  4. You guys are some crazy, awesome people!

    I'm personally terrified of this shit. I grew up with a kid who lost a hand due to fireworks - so I'm skittish.

    Have fun with the 2010 version!

  5. erika, i don't know what you do for a living (i mean, in addition to being one of the bestest and funnest mom's on the planet). but i would venture to guess that you are a writer (and, of course, photographer) and if you aren't you really ought to be! :-D sidemtess | linda

    p.s. i am posting this as anonymous cause i have no idea how to do anything else!

  6. wow! that is some holiday, i've never seen anything like. have fun this weekend x.

  7. Exactly what Carmen said!!!

    But I'd watch :)