Before the Fourth

We Beat the City to It

By Diana Braskich

When I was in elementary school, the Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. As long as I can remember, my hometown of Coeur d’Alene has held events to honor our nation’s founding, and my parents could always be counted on to attend. 

But our family’s celebration always started in the days before the city’s, when my sister and I would accompany my parents to purchase our fireworks, a seemingly endless cache of street-legal pyrotechnics. This was a thrill for me, as I would marvel over the rows upon rows of once-a-year delights, an impressively large and diverse collection compiled by my dad. Each year, we bought an assortment fit for a king—cost was of no importance when it came to the Fourth.

On the evening before the big day, my dad would put on a fireworks show for the entire neighborhood. Almost everyone would come, hauling lawn chairs, blankets, and endless exotic treats to grace the snack table set up in our garage. Our stash of munitions, already outsized, would expand, as fathers throughout the neighborhood tried to one-up each other in fireworks prowess. Inevitably, the occasional bottle rocket or other forbidden fruit would find its way into the mix, and wind up terrifying the mothers and delighting the kids when it crashed-landed on a neighbor’s roof or plunged into a backyard swimming pool (I guess I should say don’t try this at home).

The show would start early, before dark, with my friends and I lighting sparklers and black snakes, dropping sparks on our exposed toes and smudging our fingers with soot.  As dusk approached, parents and older brothers would start to arrive, and my friends and I would line up along the curb, a spot of honor, as it was right behind the launch area. My mother would be tasked with restraining our dog, who was intent on destroying this unknowable threat through constant shrill barks and dangerous and unpredictable lunges toward the street.

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