Since my early childhood, I've held the 4th of July close to my heart. Most boys I know did--who couldn't love a holiday which encouraged the use of explosives?
My detonations took place in small town America: Clay Center, KS, population just shy of five thousand. Aimee was from a different world--St. Louis, MO, population a whole helluva lot more.
Aimee made her first trip to Clay Center for the 4th in 1999. I treated her to the deliberately-paced (slow) spectacle (meaning non-spectacle) that was Clay Center's 4th celebration. We parked with old high school buddies in a grocery store lot, the same store where those buddies and I worked in our formative years. The city fireworks display launched above the football stadium about 1/4 mile away. After the "show" we lit our own fireworks. Jason bragged about the prowess of the buzz bomb, and then heartily defended the buzz bombs of his youth when the 1999 version sputtered and we all laughed--especially Aimee with that deep, soul-shaking laugh of hers. She spoke of the V.P. Fair in St. Louis, but never to degrade our small town experience. She had a gift that way. Even as one friend snuggled with his fiancée in the bed of a pick-up truck to Cinderella's "You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone," she simply said, "That's when I knew I was in small town America."
God knows how easy it was to mock Clay Center 4ths...
We started traveling to Belle Plaine, KS, for the 4th in 2002. Aaron, another high school bud, lives in the open country south of Wichita. Out there, surrounded by well-irrigated corn fields, we can detonate everything we want--and often do. Aimee trooped along, year after year, and finally came to enjoy (I hope), the slower pace and free-wheeling attitude of small town celebrations. All the gunpowder in the world can't mask the simple fact that the 4th of July is really about friends and family. My boys have grown up with Aaron and Jason's kids, splashing in mud puddles, having water gun fights, and finally starting to launch their own fireworks as they've grown older. I told Aimee we'd try and get the crew to go to St. Louis for the V.P. Fair one year. We haven't made it, yet.
I'll head back to Belle Plaine to hang out with Aaron and Jason this year. I'll bring my boys, and they'll run and play with the other kids. I'll go to sleep, alone, in a borrowed bed and wish Aimee was there to enjoy every small town moment of it.
Holidays are going to be hard.