Jesse Murphy: My holiday kryptonite
In my opinion, Independence Day is the best holiday of the year, hands down, second being Halloween.
I call the day by its real name, not the date it happens to fall on, because of what it represents to me.
Independence. Think about the word for a second. Freedom, liberty, autonomy, self-reliance, free will.
Something about those words gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in my gut.
How we celebrate the day our forefathers decided they were sick of paying taxes may have changed, and maybe they roll in their graves every year, but dang, it is fun.
There is a certain level of lawlessness in lighting a fuse that will launch a flaming ball hundreds of feet in the air.
Even down to the small stuff, snakes and sparklers and the infamous Black Cat line of products. You have a sense that you are doing something that you want to do, simply because you have the freedom to do it, and it's something that is normally not allowed.
Though there is a huge safety kick, since some people don't have the gray matter to handle fireworks responsibly, I believe in the good old-fashioned fun.
In that regard, I think I fall into the irresponsible category. Many Independence Days throughout my childhood should have ended with a trip to the emergency room.
I'm sure my mother cringed in horror if/when she was brave enough to look into what we were up to with all of those gunpowder-packed accidents-in-waiting.
The best part was having leftover fireworks. We always held some back, just in case we came across something that needed to be blown up throughout the year (which never failed to happen).
Roman candle and bottle rocket fights were a staple. You weren't tough unless you could hold that bottle rocket until the very last second before sending it straight at a brother's head (just to be safe - KIDS, DO NOT DO THIS).
We managed to find some more creative ways to use our stockpile, but those are stories for another day. My celebrations have changed drastically since my kids came along (I think they are cuter with all 10 fingers).
But I still have my fun, even though it never fails to get me in trouble. Usually minor burns and small fires, this year I have already encountered a new problem.
The four of us took a family trip to a tent to procure this year's explosives last weekend.
Being on a new budget plan to rid ourselves of pesky student loans, we are living frugally.
So when the wife saw how much I had spent, I thought the heat from "the look" would set off the whole stand. Instincts told me to grab the kids and take cover. But I held firm, I'll go to bat for the fireworks.
Naturally, I tried to blame the kids for sneaking random fireworks into the basket while my attention was focused elsewhere. Which is true, but only accounted for a small fraction of the total.
There's no sense in playing the blame game, I said. What's done is done, the card had been swiped, merchant copy signed.
So home we went with our new, albeit short-lived, toys. The son and I couldn't wait another second. We set off a few, but decided to save the good ones for the holiday.
I think it's safe to say we have enough poppers to last for months, enough parachutes to hold up a full-grown man, and enough sparklers to challenge Paris' claim to being the "City of Light."
When it comes to leaving it to professionals, I enjoy, and partake in, the “oohs” and “aahs” of every shell launched in shows.
The smell of gunpowder hanging in the thick July air is something I have always valued more than any Christmas morning.
Sorry to get sappy, but I really love Independence Day. I hope everyone enjoys theirs as much as I will, that we all stay as safe as reasonably possible, and that we all return to work with the same number of digits we had before.
This week, if you look hard enough through the smoke bomb clouds, you’ll see me with my fist in the air saying, "Hooray, America!"
Jesse Murphy is a reporter for the Maryville (No.) Daily Forum. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.