Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Some Splainin'

You know how whenever someone says, "Don't turn around, but here comes..." the first thing you do is turn around?

That's how I am with those little boxes of pellet "snakes" that come in any Red Devil Fireworks "family assortment pack."

Lemme, in the words of Ricky Ricardo, 'splain.

Every year, from June 30 through July 3, whenever I heard my dad's car in the driveway, I'd drop whatever I was doing and rush out to greet him - my own little family tradition, you might say. But before you go thinking, "aw, how cute," you might take note of the fact that I was only cute a few days of the year. A lot of kids rushed out to greet their dads year-round. (We called these kids "suck-ups." No, just kidding. Well, sort of; I mean, some of these kids WERE suck-ups, and where I came from, suck-ups were only one caste level above bullies. But I digress.)

Still, it took some effort to uphold this tradition, seeing as how my dad never came home before six and was rarely home before seven; Mom kept his dinner warm until eight most nights, sometimes nine. More often than not, I welcomed Dad home from a hard day at the office in my pajamas.

But I'd run outside no matter how cozy I'd been or with any color goop drying on my (teenaged) face to greet Dad on those aforementioned days, because on those aforementioned days, I wanted to help Dad unload his trunk. Much as he'd rather I didn't - help him unload it, that is.

"Well, look who's here to help her old man bring in his blueprints," he'd snort, knowing with every fiber of his paternal being that he was as much to "blame" for my sudden, albeit annually-occurring, offers to help as he was. For my dad couldn't pass a fireworks stand without stopping to buy something, and he never turned away any bag of ignitable goodies "the guys at the office" were always giving him at this time of year.

"Don't even think about opening that box/bag/carton," he'd say; "I haven't had a chance to go through it yet myself."

'Going through it' was, of course, Dadspeak for, "I haven't had time to get rid of the pellet snakes" he hated so much.

Sparklers; Gushing Geysers; Roman Fountains; Piccolo Petes; Tijuana Tillies; all manner of screaming whatnots and whizzers; even contraband M-80s: They were all okay in my dad's book.

But pellet snakes, ugh. Just the sight of an unopened box of them could produce a curse-filled tirade. "Whoever the **** is that decided nothing says 'Happy Fourth of July' better than stained sidewalks and driveways and God knows what else should be ****** by his ********* at high*****noon..." for example.

Naturally, I was as drawn to these admittedly useless little black scourges-of-concrete as moths are to flame. They were the first things I looked for when I was old enough to buy my own fireworks, and I can't for the life of me explain my attraction.

Neither can my husband, who is almost as blasphemous as my dad on the subject and truly loathes "...the ****** things."

Indeed, I'm bracing for his annual, "You threw those despicable driveway destroyers out, didn't you?" even as I write this.

And, in the spirit of the season, I'll plead the fifth. Until next week, when I'll produce the infernal pellets and say, "No, dear, I didn't. But I didn't light them, either. Happy?"

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