We actually have two holidays in a row coming up, because the 5th of July is celebrated by expeditious suburban 8-year-olds everywhere. Or, at least, it was a big deal to me in the 1980’s.
When I was a kid, I discovered a lovely truth about life very early on — adults partying in the street after dark sometimes dropped things and did not pick them. This includes things that kids are not supposed to have — including fireworks.
Until the day I die, I will never forget the smell of spent firecracker powder in the air of a July 5th morning. (That almost sounded like an “Apocalypse Now” joke.) To a boy like me, it was the smell of sweet, sweet opportunity. I was a habitual early riser, and I annually ran right past my “Sgt. Rock” comic books to grab my bike and scour the neighborhood.
Among the burnt black smears in the street and the spent, discarded “Roman Candles,” there were inevitably a few fireworks that weren’t lit off. You needed a good eye, as a kid — spent, burnt fireworks littered the ground like confetti, and you had to look carefully for those with fuses.
There were always “Black Cats” or “TNT’s” to be found — those were just plain, regular firecrackers. But they still brought a hell of a lot of joy to a pre-teen, and you couldn’t beat the price. (Bear in mind, Virginians, that the sale of fireworks is illegal in New York, so they were much harder for a young boy to find. My family always somehow laid hands on a few pack of firecrackers or “Jumping Jacks,” but they weren’t exactly plentiful.)
I found larger pieces, too, when I was very lucky. The crown of my collection was a perfect, unlit M-80 that somebody had dropped.
I realize that all of this sounds vaguely pathetic. But I was an opportunist, and Netflix hadn’t been invented yet.