Oil and Water



From a very early age, my mother and I were like oil and water, and it only intensified as I grew older and accumulated more grievances (some perceived, some real) against her. Here’s an example: when I was just learning to talk we had a disagreement about some long forgotten issue, and she decided to have a little fun with me: as she was saying “yes” and I was just as vociferously replying “no”, she suddenly shifted and started saying “no” and - without skipping a beat - I moved seamlessly to the positive. I have no recollection of the incident (I was, after all, nearly pre-verbal) but I have no doubt that it occurred exactly as she related it. (Did I mention that we were both equally stubborn?)


In fact, my childhood memories are crammed with examples of our clashes, and I can cite chapter and verse the volume and acrimony of our increasingly antagonistic interactions. It is therefore a mystery to me that there was one notable exception to this rancorous relationship: fireworks.


When I was a pre-schooler my mother had witnessed a firecracker exploding in the face of a child very close to my own age. She was mortified that this seemingly innocent All-American summer ritual could have tragic consequences. Once again, I have no recollection of the incident, but I do vividly remember the absolute ban on fireworks of any kind in all subsequent celebratory occasions.


What is unique about this edict was my reaction to it. If I had followed my usual M.O. I should have moved heaven and earth to not only obtain firecrackers, but defiantly set them off in our own front yard. But I not only didn’t object, I have always been completely uninterested in fireworks!


When I grew up and had a family of my own, every Fourth of July we would bundle up the kids and head to the best public fireworks display in the entire Black Hills (sponsored by the small town of Custer) where the local volunteer fire department put on a huge annual display as a fund-raiser. Well before sunset we would join a long line of cars waiting to get in to the viewing area, and happily place our donations in the coffee can held by a volunteer fireman. Because the elevation of Custer is a mile high, it was always quite chilly (yet another reason for me to dislike the ritual) but we bundled up in winter coats and sleeping bags to await darkness and the commencement of the main event.


The kids loved it, my husband loved it, and I willingly went along to share this family ritual, but the only thing I ever got out of it was the bonus of people-watching. The fireworks I could take or leave.


After the kids were grown, my daughter and I lived in an apartment that backed up to a golf course right in the middle of town (Rapid City), which was the designated location for the annual community fireworks display, and I hosted a party each of the three years we lived there. But the truth of the matter was, if I hadn’t hosted a party they would have shown up anyway - because it really was a front-row seat from our balcony!


Anyway, Happy Fourth of July, but enjoy the fireworks without me. And please stay safe!