A Long Ago Fourth of July

It was the Fourth of July, 1928. In 23 days I would be 6 years old. A neighbor was having a barbecue and our family was invited. I was told I could stay up late enough to see the fireworks, the fireworks my Uncle Jack was bringing. Unfortunately, Jack was smoking a stogie as he came up the lawn clutching a huge bag of fireworks under his chin. Maybe he opened his mouth to say "Hello," I don't know, but his cigar wound up in the fireworks, and Jack wound up in the hospital.

For some reason, I recall the adults that day more clearly than I do the other kids. There were six or eight sets of parents, men I'd not seen in shorts before, one with very hairy legs I thought of mowing. The ladies seemed to laugh more than the men and were louder. That went well, as I remember it, with the colors of their dresses, far more colorful than the menswear around.

I recall the parents as quite clubby, but there were two clubs, the men and the women. When they talked together I can hear them excitedly discussing Charles Lindbergh, who had just become the first man to cross the Atlantic alone in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis.

While all of what I described here remains in my memory there is only one split second incident that calls that July 4th, 1928 event to my mind. The backyard where the barbecue was taking place had a bush, or a line of bushes, call it a hedge, maybe three-feet tall. My father had gone into the house for something, for some reason, and as he was returning he faced the hedge and had to go around it. But he didn't. He jumped over it. Or he leaped. Or danced. I don't know if anyone else saw it but I did and it took my breath away. My memory has a dreamy quality in which my father is a combination of Johnny Weissmuller and Jesse Owens with a touch of Fred Astaire. I loved those men as well.