July 04, 2004

God Steals the Show or: A Midsummer Night's Vacation

Ahhh . . . My big middle-of-the-summer vacation time has finally arrived, and I am enjoying copious amounts of it here in West Texas even as we speak.

It is very much the 4th of July . . . barely. And as such, a post is quite in order. As busy as today has been, however, I had probably better catch the lot of you up on my activities as of our last communication first.

Prepare yourselves for epic journeyings by automobile, epic loungings on epic recliners for epic lengths of time, and even . . .

Well, read on . . .

I picked up the folks and the littlest brother in Dallas on Thursday and brought them back to Longview. My parents relaxed at their hotel, and I entertained Ian with a trip to the library, a guided tour of campus, and an evening of movie-watching.

On Friday we had a very long trip to Lubbock . . . Normally takes 7-8 hours, but we managed it in 12 thanks to a major blowout about 25 miles from Abilene. I hate Abilene, and spending 4 hours in a Wal-mart there (wasn't even one of the Super kind . . .) didn't improve my disposition any.

Nevertheless, we managed to complete the journey safe and sound, and I was very glad to see everyone . . . Brett called for a midnight trip to the Sonic, and since Audra (who works there) didn't object, I had no objections of my own to raise. We arrived and discovered that neither Ashley or Audra actually wanted to order anything and Brett had no money. I ordered a small chocolate shake.

I didn't spend nearly enough of Saturday in bed, but I made up for it by spending the rest of it sprawled across various couches and recliners. The afternoon and evening found me glued to the proverbial boob tube as I watched five movies, consecutively (but not concurrently). Only one (and possibly a half) of them was actually worth my time, but . . . Oh, well.

And then it was the 4th of July. Or, rather, now it is the 4th of July, I suppose. I accompanied family (immediates and extendeds) to Trinity Church of Lubbock, TX and experienced there a service that I'd rather not rehash before we all gathered at the traditional Sunday lunch restaurant: Rosa's Cafe.

The food wasn't as tasty as usual, but this might have been due to an argument I was engaged in over the finer points of the sermon, the justifications for our present war in Iraq, and Hillary Clinton's chances at becoming president someday . . .


We decided that clearly a movie was in order for the whiling away of the afternoon, and I, of course, had just the proper 4th of July movie in mind: 1776. Yes, indeed. If that movie doesn't strike the perfect tone of patriotic cynicism and general Founding Father fun and hilarity, then I don't know what . . .

Of course, hardly anyone appreciated it as I do, and there was certainly some open dislike among those watching it. Philistines.

After this we all found our way to my grandmother's house in Lubbock (having watched the movie at my grandma's house in Southland) for a happy 4th of July evening celebration.

I helped a bit with the decorating of our parade "floats" but for once there were enough enthusiastic youngsters milling about to void the necessity of my participation . . . Perhaps I should back up a tad and explain.

Every year the denizens of my grandparents' half-mile stretch of street gather at one end with whatever vehicles and outfits they have on hand, and parade down to the other end of the street, turn around, and parade back. It has been a habit of ours for many years to decorate my grandad's orange tractor and green ride-on mower with flags and appropriately colored streamers for the purpose of joining in the fun.

I stopped enjoying my role as driver of the ride-on mower (being the eldest of all the grandchildren on both sides of the family) somewhere around the time that I got my driver's license, but my younger siblings and cousins have been strangely reluctant to take over this duty, and I have done my best to drive in the parade anyway . . . Until this year.

I decided that clearly there were more than sufficient younger types running around to take my place. After all, Audra, Jessica, Micah and Brendon have all acquired permits and/or licenses as this point . . . not to mention Ashley, Shawn and Brett. And Aaron, Ian, and Camie are all plenty old to get behind the wheel of a lawnmower or tractor.

In short, there's no reason why I should have to drive outside of the general prescriptions of tradition. The fact that tradition is not easily broken has been responsible for my driving of the thing for the past five years, but this year I was determined to pass the proverbial mantle.

To make a long story short: Ian drove the mower, Brett drove the tractor, and Shawn rode in the bucket. This is funny when you know that said "bucket" is attached to the front of the tractor is raised about 8 feet off of the ground, and that normally Camie, who is about 13 at this point, rides up there. Shawn, like Ashley, is 9 months younger than I. Or maybe it's not funny to you at all. I don't know.

We got Ian out of the front yard with many shouted instructions and much wringing of hands (he had to wind his way through eight haphazardly parked cars . . . another consequence of the number of driver's licenses that are floating around now), and settled in to enjoy the show.

I glanced around as my two grandmothers took seats on either side of me, and . . . nothing looked familiar, somehow. Then I realized that I had never (in over 10 years) enjoyed the parade from this perspective before. This year we had a real, live Naval officer in full dress uniform wielding a flag at the head of . . . all the little girls on their pink and purple tricycles, boys on go-carts, cowpersons on horseback, cousins and brothers riding mowers and tractors, etc.

It's quite a spectacle . . . but people throw candy at you.

Grandma: Jolly Ranchers? Ooo! Peach! My favorite!

As Brett and Ian went by, I went nuts . . . Cheering and yelling at the top of my lungs. A few others joined in. Ian squirmed, obviously embarassed, and Brett shouted back, calling me obscene names in Spanish. I sat back, satisfied. This is what being an older brother on the sidelines of the parade is all about . . . and I was finally getting to experience it.

At this point (the parade being over) Audra expressed an interest in game time. I did my best to rally all of The Kids to my banner, and before long we had two teams of four sitting down to play Ultimate Outburst. Somehow (and I couldn't really tell you how this happened) the teams came out with Ashley, Shawn, Brett, and myself against Audra and three Little People. We mopped up the board with them. Ooops.

I tried to make Catchphrase a bit more fair, joining Audra's team and bumping Brendon onto the other one. The teams were fairly even and gaming went on until after dark . . . The Adults had their own game of Catchphrase going in the next room. Adults are loud.

Anyway, now that I've been rambling about this and that, we arrive at the actual topic of this post, as dictated by the title.

It was time to do fireworks, and once again I relegated myself to the sidelines. My mother wanted me to go supervise, but I reminded her that my brothers have been doing stupid things with dangerous flammables for many and many a year already, and they hardly needed any help from me. Instead, I limited myself to shouting general insults in their direction as we waited for them to figure out what to light first. I also got up a bit of a chorus with Ashley and my grandma . . . as each colorful fire-flower exploded overhead we gave a loud "Oooo" or "Aaaa" in concert.

Fireworks hadn't been going off for very long before we started noticing something quite a bit more spectacular off in the distance (but getting rapidly closer). God, seeing our pretty Independence Day lights, had decided to get in on the action, I suppose . . .

Between each rocket of ours, there were at least two or three multi-forked bursts of lightening shooting down from on high less than two miles away (as the thunder . . . umm . . . claps, I guess). I, for one, quit paying attention to what was going on overhead and focused on God's Fireworks. Hard to beat, those . . .

Within 20 minutes, the rain had arrived and we went inside for a game of Trivial Pursuit. Before organizing that, however, I couldn't help but spend a few moments at the window . . .

God's Fireworks, of course, are quite rainproof.

God's Fireworks, in addition, are not constrained to being displayed for the viewing pleasure of any particular nation on any particular day. I may be from the United States of America, and I may be inclined to love my country more than any other, but my God is not nearly so limited.

Posted by Jared at July 4, 2004 11:59 PM | TrackBack