Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday's Words for May 13, 2009

This coming weekend is the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada. Yes, we Canadians still celebrate the “official birthday” of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria (who was Queen of England and Canada from 1837 until her death in 1901). The actual holiday is Monday, May 18th this year as it is always the closest Monday before May 24th.

When I was a kid, this was the only day of the year we had fireworks (we called it “firecracker day”). To my recollection, we didn’t begin to have fireworks on July 1st (Canada Day) until after I was a wife and mother. In those days the nation’s birthday was called Dominion Day—as in, The Dominion of Canada.

In my teen years, people began to refer to the Victoria Day weekend as the “May Two Four” weekend—not as a uniquely Canadian way of citing the date, the twenty-fourth, but because “two four” was the slang for a full case of beer, which in this country is twenty-four bottles!

This holiday plays an important role as the source of some of my most vivid memories of my father, who died when I was eight. Among my earliest recollections is being huddled close to my mom and sister as we stood on the front lawn while my father and brother set off the annual display. In those days, in our area, large community events were as yet unheard of. Generally, each family just had their own celebration. I even remember one occasion that must have been colder than usual because Daddy bundled us into the car to keep us warm while we watched.

Firecrackers were legal in those days, and there was always a bit of money to buy some from our corner store. I recall my first attempt at lighting my own resulted in my throwing away the “punk” and retaining the firecracker, which my father slapped out of my hand just before it exploded. I soon became proficient at setting off these mini explosives, and inventive as well. I used soup cans, soda bottles and mud pies as staging props for my exercises in demolition. It’s a wonder I didn’t seriously harm myself.

After my father passed away, and when I was an adolescent, the near-by city of Hamilton held an annual enormous fireworks display at the football stadium, and my mother would take me to that. This event was more than fireworks, there was a show with singers, dancers and sometimes even marching bands. There was often some sort of military aircraft fly-over, and once there were skydivers! The show was called “Bang-O-Rama”, and the fireworks portion of the program certainly helped the event live up to its name.

When our own family was young, my beloved and I always took our children to the local display. Bang-O-Rama had been retired into the history books, having given way to smaller, community-based celebrations. The event nearest us was usually held in a large park and had plenty of games and amusements for the entire family as the little ones waited anxiously for dusk.

Sometimes I miss those days, even though we inevitably froze our toes off. I know that I mostly miss my kids’ excitement and the wonder on their faces as the sky would light up with color and sound.

Beginning this Friday there will be some folks in my neighbourhood who will randomly, throughout all four nights, be setting off roman candles and fountains, barrages and wheels, and multi-shot explosives with bangs and whistles. They do it every year, and sometimes we do peek out to have a look at them.

I also know my beloved’s dog—a lab/border collie cross—will try to stuff his overweight, under-exercised self into the tiny opening beneath my desk—or he’ll try to crawl up into my chair to sit on my lap or even attempt to get up on the bed as the “popping sounds” made by the fireworks become audible during the evening. Fireworks terrify the poor dog.

My beloved and I will probably buy enough sparklers for the grandchildren to take to the park, just as our children’s grandparents did for them. And like those earlier grandparents—my in-laws—David and I will sit quietly at home, warm and comfortable, recalling the displays of years gone by, content to simply remember.

Feed the flames of your passion…with a novel by Morgan Ashbury

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