Like almost every holiday, Independence Day wraps me in a fog of nostalgia. There are some pretty wonderful memories of Fourths of July past and a few bad ones, but they are sufficiently commingled now so that I am left with a vaguely pleasant and wistful image and feeling of the sprinklers and snakes and flaming fountains of my youth, all enjoyed on the sidewalk in front of the two houses I grew up in, with my mom and neighbors watching, followed always by a trip to Kriegbaum Field.
Kriegbaum Field was the local high school's football stadium and track. It had once been a part of the Kriegbaum family's farmland, given to the county, if I recall correctly, in order for the school to have a decent field. It was the only vast open space without trees in the city, so it was where, every year, the VFW put on its patriotic extravaganza, complete with citizenship awards—there's a bad memory tied in with those—and, finally, the fireworks. For a relatively small town, Huntington put on quite a firework display, even if it was always much too long and it was administered by local volunteers. I think it was partly the volunteer aspect that made it go on and on. With older local men lighting each rocket by hand—no computerized or electronic systems for us—it took a while to get them all going.
The other reason it was such a long affair was a desire to get all the bang possible out of our buck. After one bit of display, it was felt, it just wouldn't be right to light the next until all the excitement had died down. So, having waiting for the concert and the speeches and the presentations to end, a good hour or more of anticipation of the sunset, the veterans and the people in the stands whose donations had made the show possible would be damned if each explosion, each fiery starburst didn't get its full complement of "ooh"s and "ah"s before the next earned its accolades. Anyway, that's the way it seems to me now, but as a child, sitting almost exactly where I would again be seated for the high school football games come fall, it was a long, long night.
But there was one thing that always made that long night special. Before we would go, my mom and I would pop pot after pot of popcorn. Indiana is popcorn country and you grow up eating a lot of it, not out of a microwave, but popped in oil or butter on the stovetop in a regular old pot. We would pop pot after pot of it and pour it into a grocery bag, until it was about full, the bag slowly going from kraft paper brown to the color of oil cloth. When it was full, you knew that the celebration was about to begin. So, for me, there is something about Independence Day that makes me want to pop up some corn, fill up a grocery bag, grab my mom's hand and walk over to the field, through all the cars parked everywhere, and settle in for some fire in the sky.