I grew up in a tiny spot called Montezuma, the only thing it had then was a post office. About 5 miles away was the small town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, not Nevada an item of confusion that lives till this day. Now, there is a United World College there. What we called the castle has been restored into something new. When I lived there it was an abandoned building that had been a hotel back in the early 1900s. We lived right above it and we would play there. On the 4th of July we would barbeque and make ice cream at our house; just up from the castle. It sounds normal and even beautiful. For those who have followed my blog you know that my dad was bipolar and a rageaholic. It made every day difficult it but holidays were worse.
I grew up back in the days when fireworks included rockets and my dad who loved every thing in excess would buy the biggest box possible. The day would always start with mum making her home made ice cream. Back then it was a lot of work to make ice cream. We had to crank for hours. The old ice cream maker need salted ice and we would sneak ice to eat through the hours needed to make the ice cream . A huge part of my family is addicted to salt. With all of the work we all only got a scoop or two but it was the best. Her recipe is lost with her and maybe that is for the best. Today, her recipe wouldn’t be acceptable anyways because it included raw eggs. Mum always pointed out that her ice cream never made anyone sick. Of course, our eggs usually came from our chickens, but she did make it occasionally later in life and still never got anyone sick.
After barbecue and ice cream it would be time for fireworks. This was New Mexico and even before climate change the summers were dry, especially in the middle of the summer. The first year it might not have been obvious that setting off rockets on the side of a mountain was not a good idea but after that…
It was almost a tradition. I don’t know if dad just couldn’t risk being happy on a holiday or if the side of him that craved risk had to have that rush but every year he would fire off those rockets and then would be sure that one landed halfway up the mountain. Dad would begin to curse, not worrying that my parent’s closest friends, the Mishlers, were there. He would curse his way up the mountain, with a flash light and usually Bob Mishler in tow. If we were lucky they would be back in a half hour or so. Dad would still be cursing or stonily silent yet determined to empty the box. Frequently, the rocket possibly going into the mountain would repeat. Though there was never an actual fire The suspense, anger and moods left me sitting on egg shells waiting for the explosions. Not those of the fireworks but those from my father, especially as I learned cause and effect. All I wanted was sparklers on the nice cement square that was meant to be a garage but remained my “roller rink” with steel bars every foot or so.
There are good memories around the 4th. Mum’s ice cream. Sometimes the barbeque but mostly the ice cream. Dad would always be a powder keg and it was impossible to know what would set him off. I suppose that is why I avoid holidays the memories of dads moods and explosions are strongest then. This 4th I was filling a bit down and alone but then I reached out to a cousin and my niece and that family connection, virtual as it is, always makes me feel better.
The 4th means so much more. It is the birth of our nation. A time to celebrate 240 rocky years. While we sit at home or watch fire works we have to remember more than our families fun, stressful or both and remember the men and women who fight for us today and also remember the values that this countries stands for.