The 4th of July was my favorite holiday when I was a youth, filled with family and tradition. I picture my parents and brothers gathered on the back patio visiting and churning ice cream, initially with a hand crank and in later years an electric freezer. We would entertain ourselves on the swing set, toss a ball around, or play with the dog. Our dad solicited our help in gathering tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, green beans, and a few other vegetables out of the garden for my mother to prepare. Steaks were only on the menu this one time of the year. My mouth is watering as I think of how my dad would marinate and grill them to a perfect medium rare.
The meal was delectable! Homegrown vegetables are so full of flavor. It was years after I left home before I could bring myself to buy a tomato from the store. After the dishes were cleared and enough time had passed for the ice cream to freeze, it was time for dessert! You couldn’t beat my Aunt Edith’s ice cream recipe. It took a little work and some timing to have it ready, but it was certainly worth the effort. Edith was my grandma Dollie’s sister. She was the sweetest, kindest woman you could ever meet.
Once you have a bowl, you will thank me for providing the recipe. Perhaps it will become a tradition for your family. I do have to warn you about brain freeze. Ha! I googled brain freeze and actually found it in Wikipedia. It is listed under ice cream headache and has a scientific name sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.
One year my brother invited a friend to join our 4th of July celebration. Imagine his reaction when during dessert everyone around the table started moaning and grabbing there head or eye. He had never experienced or even heard of brain freeze.
Now that the food portion of the day is complete, let the fireworks begin! We would have our own little backyard fun with firecrackers, pop bottle rockets, and sparklers. As my brothers became old enough to have jobs and pocket money, we expanded into Roman candles and other assorted pyrotechnics. Sometimes it got a little out of hand. I’ll let my brother, Larry, explain.
“In those days you could buy 2 ½ inch firecrackers and also M-80s. The M-80s came in a cardboard box with about 2 dozen in it. Each M80 was a 1/8th stick of dynamite and was about ½ inch in diameter with a waxed fuse about mid section. One trick we always did with fire crackers was to take a pan of water and then take a small tin can and put a hole in the end and put a fire cracker in it and turn it upside down in the water – when it went off, the pressure would shoot the can up in the air with a massive water trail. One year I was using mom’s big tin washtub to do this and also had some M80s. I told dad that
years ago I would throw them in the creek and they would go off underwater. Dad said they wouldn’t do that so I showed him, throwing one into the wash tub. When it went off, it raised the water and the tub up about six inches and split it right down the side. Dad said “well I’ll be darned” and mom came running to punish those that had destroyed her prized tub. That tub had been used by many birds, dogs and kids.”
The tub in the picture is mine. I think it ran into some boys and a consenting (Jeff says clueless) father. The formula below still applies today, just change the height of the boy and the form of explosive.
Boy (the tall one) + M80 + washtub + water + consenting Father (see individual above)
equals unhappy Mother
My mother, Helen. Couldn’t find a picture of her not smiling :). Note the red hair.
A destroyed tub was the least of our consequences. Fortunately, we never made any trips to the ER. There was an open field behind our back fence that went up in smoke several times either on the 4th of July or after Christmas when we burned the tree. The fire department would occasionally come by and ask mom if we were planning on burning the field again “this year”.
We would end the evening by sitting on the roof of our house, and watching the city’s display of fireworks in the distance.
Over the years I tried to recreate the 4th of July traditions that I loved, but I couldn’t make it work. It’s illegal to shoot off fireworks in our neighborhood. One year we went to an area open to the public to ignite them. We escaped alive and never went back. Without a garden it was hard to capture the same flavors. The work involved to make ice cream and keep up with eight young kids was enough to leave the freezer on the shelf and send me to the store for Brahms or Blue Bell. The best I can do is leave my kids with this story, and an opportunity for them to create their own family tradition.