Sunday, July 6, 2008

July 4th with Firefighters

Sadly, my first July 4th in Boston was not exciting. I'd hoped to be able to go into Boston, and see the fireworks and maybe the Boston Pops. But it rained, which generated a migraine. Not a hugely awful one, but still one that made me need my meds. This made me decide that I should stay in. Driving in an unfamiliar place on a holiday with an out-of-state plate while on

So while resting from the migraine, I started thinking about July 4th when I was a kid. My dad was a volunteer firefighter, and the guys in his house always had a cookout at "Cappy's". The guys all pitched in for meat and alcohol and sodas, the wives brought side dishes and desserts, and the kids brought their swimsuits and pool toys...because Cappy's family had a pool.

Some of the younger guys weren't much more than overgrown teenagers themselves. One year I was all impressed with my new maturity level -- I was in my mid-teens, but already about 5'7" -- and then, out of nowhere a young guy nicknamed "Bigfoot" picked me up and unceremoniously dumped me in the pool. I surfaced and whacked him with a wet towel. So much for maturity on either count.

One high point of the parties was when one of the rigs would come out to Cappy's. The kids would all climb all over and have a great time. We have about 30 photos of my brother wearing a plastic firefighter hat, "driving" the engine or ladder or whatever came to the party that day. The guys would show the kids what the tools were and how they were used. They didn't need to bother showing us the turnout gear -- we knew about that. The neighborhood kids always came running and got to go on the fire trucks, too.

The other high point was the fireworks. Not the city fireworks, which were only fair in those days, but the fireworks that a few of the guys brought back from South Carolina (where you can go to a roadside stand and buy anything short of a rocket launcher, I think). Scratch a firefighter, find a firebug. They'd shout fireworks safety rules at us kids, but then proceed to break all the rules themselves. I particularly remember hearing "never drink and set off fireworks!" said a million times -- almost always by someone holding a beer or bourbon. The fact that these were illegal fireworks being set off by people sworn to uphold public safety made it that much funnier, at least for this cynical then-teenager.

It was really great, that feeling of belonging at that party. It was one large family having a good time all day and into the night.

We were exhausted at the end of the day. We'd drive home with the radio on low, the windows slightly open, and the warm breeze blowing into the car. My brother and I always fell asleep on the drive home, and slept late the next day.