Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Little Summer in Winter

Back in fourth or fifth grade, I had a buddy whose family took me with them to a house party in Manchester on one July Fourth holiday.  Parents pretty much socialized inside the hosts’ house, while the kids ran amok outside.  I don’t recall whether the parents were not watching us closely or simply didn’t have much concern, but we ten or eleven year-olds were left to entertain ourselves.  To my utter shock and delight, it dawned on me that my peers were playing with lighters, matches, and – most importantly – fireworks.  When I look back on this occasion, it was probably one of the highlights of my short life up to that point. 

My parents were reasonably lenient about letting my brother and me engage in those “boys will be boys” activities, which were inherently dangerous but almost impossible to prevent unless they stood watch over us constantly.  You know, I’m thinking about things like climbing trees that were tall enough to kill or maim us, should a branch snap and we fell.  Or riding bikes helmetless while trespassing in the sand and gravel pits with signs clearly marked “Keep Out.”  Or hanging around the train tracks to put pennies on the rails before an engine came rumbling by Robie’s Store as we ate penny candy.  You catch my drift.

Still, my parents had their boundaries.  And handling flammable exploding projectiles was definitely off-limits.  Naturally, when the opportunity arose to handle this contraband unsupervised, I jumped at it.  Fortunately, this is not going to be a story where someone was terribly burned or lost an eyeball.  

The reason that I mention this memory is because Tilly has transported me back to that Fourth of July long ago.  The coolest part to me of playing with fireworks that day was lighting bottle rockets.  I would place the long and narrow red wooden stick with my right hand into an empty twelve ounce bottle that I held with my left.  Then, I’d light the wick until I saw the yellow spark and accompanying hiss.  Next, I’d hold the bottle up over my head at an angle to ensure maximum height until eventually – a sudden *whoosh* sound occurred and the rocket would lift off leaving a trail of sparks.  The moment would culminate with a loud, high-pitched *eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,* then a pause, and finally – the denouement – an exploding pop that temporarily rang in our ears.

Tilly makes almost this exact same noise when she is feeling ignored.  Typically, we’re at the kitchen table and we’re not feeding her fast enough.  Or, we may have left the table and abandoned her in her high chair, so she signals that we’ve left her behind.  When you turn around to acknowledge Tilly and confirm that you, in fact, heard her loud and clear, she smiles triumphantly and kicks her short sausage link legs.  I can’t help but laugh and smile back at her.  Or kiss her beautifully chubby cheeks.

As a result, I’ve re-named Tilly as the “Bottle Rocket.”  Greta, formerly known as the Pterodactyl when she was the same age, seems to like the name, too.  I hope it sticks. 

Now just in case my Bottle Rocket is ever at your house for a July Fourth party, or any party for that matter, she is definitely not allowed to light any fireworks – at least until I go first.  

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