Fireflies and fireworks

With my eight year old granddaughter Alexxis riding shotgun, and two sleepy pups in the back seat, we took off for the country.

Or what’s left of it anyway.

I was searching for a simpler, quieter 4th of July weekend. Something akin to the one I enjoyed when I was her age.

A weekend full of front porches, lemonade, ice cream, with plenty of cozy books and crayons came to mind.

And sprinkled lightly with just a spoonful of fireworks.

Hitting the highway out of the city to the south, I noticed the road wasn’t the same as I remembered.

Instead of crops growing tall, it was the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and casinos that now beckoned.

And new treeless housing developments of endless large taupe colored homes. All clustered tightly together, with each house perfectly identical to the one next door.

Yet by the time we took a right to enter the big lot of the state’s largest candy store a half hour later, I noticed the landscape had changed.

Getting out of the car, I could see the corn surrounding me was “knee high by the 4th of July.”

Just as it should be. And maybe even taller.

And off in the distance I spotted grain silos on what seemed be a couple family farms.

At least I hoped they still were.

Alexxis and I smiled as we entered and  then walked through the mammoth isles of the candy shop. Our noses were happy as well as we caught the scent of fresh berry pies from the bakery within.

She picking out her favorite Bazooka gum and gummy bears.

Me selecting the sweet treats of my youth like Sugar Daddys, an apple pie, and root beer candy sticks.

I laughed as the root beer smell brought me back to one particular 4th of July memory when I was a child.

After too many sweets and too many stops at homes of friends and family, the new car smell of my parent’s brand new sedan soon was permanently overtaken with the scent of root beer fizzies mixed with something, well, not quite as pleasant and gifted by me.

Back in my car, Alexxis and I continued our drive through lush valleys until the road evened out some.

Before approaching the small farm where we would be staying, I introduced Alexxis to my favorite books back when I was her age that featured two young girls living in a Midwestern small town in the early 1900s named Betsy and Tacy.

We stopped for a brief tour of each of their original homes and to buy a special book bag for Alexxis’s growing collection of books at the little gift store attached.

After unpacking at the farmhouse, Alexxis rocked in the front porch swing with her new Betsy and Tacy book to the hum of a farmer haying in the field across the road.

And I settled into the rocking chair, dozing for a while.

Then suddenly Alexxis announced, “Fireflies Grandma, Fireflies!”

She’d never seen one before and I haven’t since I was a child.

But she was right.

There they were, dancing brightly near the blooming white snowball bush.

We danced as well, warmed by the light of the fireflies, skipping the fireworks display  in town.

There will be always be fireworks we figured.

But only one chance to be a kid.

Or maybe two, as just for a brief moment I was a kid back in the country once again.

Little Miss Firecracker

Grandma Greta is not a big fan of the 4th of July, particularly with its noisy fireworks.

She spent most of last night hiding out beneath my old straw hat.

“Make it stop!” she pleaded after briefly coming up for air.

Or maybe it was when she came up for her own red, white and blue Popsicle…

Anyway, to avoid further traumatizing our ‘gracefully aging’ diva, I was careful to hide the grilled hot dogs underneath a napkin as they came off the grill.

It seems cooked dogs also terrify Greta.

As well any wiener dog references.

To finally help settle her rattled nerves, and mine from high pitched shrieking every time she heard a bottle rocket, I offered up a bribe.

“How about a little steak Friday night if you settle down right now, Greta?” I queried.

“How about ALOT?” she countered, batting those long black lashes right up at me.

I let her win as usual.

There’s just no arguing with a five pound firecracker.

Pirates and red velvet

She chooses a red velveteen dress and matching sequined shoes this 4th of July morning.

Picture perfect to match a fresh feline face painting.

I choose my old straw hat and sensible shoes to wear with fading cotton shorts and a tee.

Together my granddaughter and I stand ready to catch flying pancakes at the annual breakfast by the old train station.

I catch both of mine.

She misses both of hers.

The chef places another pair directly on her plate, smiling.

I credit my successful catch on my shoes.

But somedays I wish I wasn’t so sensible.

Then I’d wear red velvet dresses too, and frame my face with paintings.

But I’d choose pirates for strength, in my masterpieces.

Just like my grandson.

I like the idea of strong women in red velvet.

No Betsy Ross for me

You just know that someone who will dress up as Betsy Ross for the annual 4th of July kiddie parade has to be a pretty special father.

And a great volunteer.

I was thinking about him today and how he’s impacted so many in his community by participating in the short three block event.

Even if it’s just by painting sweet smiles on the faces of the children.

In my book, that’s huge.

Maybe more of us can volunteer to help out our towns.

I know I can.

But you won’t see me dressing up as Betsy Ross.

I’m aiming instead for the role of the white bearded Uncle Sam on stilts.

Now that ought to get everyone laughing.