Where has summer gone? Where has the time gone? As a kid, the Fourth of July marked the halfway point of summer. The half way point between the last test of the year and the opening of a new notebook. Time has snuck up on us and the halfway point of summer is here.
The Fourth of July means BBQs, parades and fireworks. Fireworks - a Fourth of July tradition. The dark summer's sky lights up with glowing orange worms and yellow and green starbursts. Today it seems like there is a fireworks show every weekend; each proclaiming to be the biggest of them all. As a kid going to see fireworks was an event, not a weekly happening, and I was lucky because I got to see three fireworks shows.
Like many Milwaukeeans, our Fourth of July would begin on the night of the third of July. Fireworks at the lakefront, a Milwaukee tradition. Thousands of people gathering along the shore of Lake Michigan with coolers, Frisbees, and blankets, all in search of the perfect spot to clearly view the glowing orange worms and colorful starbursts that would soon light up the July sky.
But not my family; my Dad didn’t like crowds so he gave my Mom, my Brother, and me a different perspective on viewing fireworks. He would load us into our maroon Oldsmobile Delta 88 and we would cruise I-43, I-94, and parts in between; back and forth, driving north, south, east, and west. As long as a car window faced east, our faces were peeled to the glass, looking out of it in hopes that we would see a glowing orange worm or colorful starburst. Staring out the eastward facing windows, we would say, “I hear one, maybe we’ll see this one. Oh, there’s a bridge in the way.” “There’s one! Look above the Marc Plaza.” Oooh! Ahhh! When the point came that we had to twist our necks like an owl to look east, my Dad would say, “don’t worry kids, I’ll turn around and you’ll see some more.”
And that he did, driving back and forth, cruising the streets and highways of Milwaukee, until the car continued north on I-43 to Silver Spring Drive. Our fireworks show, all four or five of the fireworks that we actually saw, was over but we knew that we were in for a treat. We were gong to the Milky Way for custard. Granted,we went there often, but on the third of July we just didn’t get cones of chocolate or vanilla, we each ordered a large hot fudge sundae. Gooey hot fudge atop mounds of melting creamy vanilla custard, topped with a bright red maraschino cherry. Adhering to our lesson in crowd avoidance, we sat inside that maroon Delta 88 and carefully ate our sundaes, making sure we didn’t drip any gooey hot fudge or melting custard onto the crushed velour upholstery.
Our second and third fireworks displays came on the Fourth of July. Again, it was a chance for my Dad to give us his unique perspective on viewing fireworks and lesson on how to avoid crowds. Just after the sun set and the sky darkened, he would call us together. “Come in the kitchen, you will be able to see them out the window.” There we were, all four of us standing around the small kitchen window facing northwest, looking at the fireworks about to be shot off from Brown Deer Park.
"I hear one.” “I don’t see anything. That must have been a ground firework.”
"Look, through the trees, green starbursts.”
My Dad had the timing down perfectly. He knew when the next fireworks display was to begin. About twenty minutes after standing in front of the kitchen sink, looking northwest through the trees towards Brown Deer Park, he would say, “come on kids, let’s go outside.”
He had two blankets on the ground and two lawn chairs made from scratchy green and white webbing, one for him and one for my Mom. We weren't going to the park; our front lawn was the park. My Dad sprayed my Brother and me with bug repellant so strong that we smelled like a can of Off for a week. My Mom was in charge of pouring us glasses of pink lemonade from her harvest gold jug, which frankly became swimming pools for the mosquitos that didn't land on us. Holding our pink mosquito swimming pools, we sat outside on those blankets and chairs facing southeast to get a clearer view of the fireworks that were soon going to be shot off from Kletzsch Park.
"I hear one. There was the boom." "I don't see anything. That must have been a ground firework."
"Look! Through the trees, green and yellow starbursts."
While I was lucky to see three fireworks display, I now realize that each year what I actually saw was a half of an entire fireworks show, if that.
This year marks the ninth annual Glendale Days, the premier Fourth of July celebration in the North Shore area. My husband, daughter, and I have attended several of the previous eight Glendale Days and we will be there again this year. We will listen to music, enjoy carnival food, spray ouselves with not so smelly bug repellant, and wait for the summer's sky to turn dark so that we can enjoy the glowing orange worms and the colorful starbursts that light up the July sky.
By the way, the Fourths of July that the three of us have not spent at Glendale Days, well, we have spent them on the corner of our front lawn. We were sitting on our blankets, holding our glasses of pink lemonade, and looking southeast towards Kletzsch Park, watching the fireworks through the trees. And some how I could hear my Dad saying "Oooh! Ahhh!"