Thursday, July 9, 2009

Playing with Fire, or Burn Baby, Burn

July 8, 2009

Looking at everyone's 4th of July celebration pictures made me reminisce a little about some of our 4th of Julys past. One of my favorite Independence Day memories could have turned out very badly, but luckily just provided us with lots of laughs.

Several years ago, we were spending the holiday with some very good friends of ours, our 'adopted' Nana and Poppa. They have a big piece of land out in the country, so several of us were gathered out there to put on a fireworks spectacle for all of the little kids (and lots of us big kids, too). As part of our 'pre-show,' we broke out the sparklers. I love sparklers, and the kids are always mesmerized by them. Brianna was about 7 years old, and had gotten to join in the sparkler fun the previous year, so she was looking forward to holding her very own sparkler again this year. Nicholas, who was four at the time, was a little more unpredictable, so I wasn't too thrilled about letting him hold his own, even though he was dying to give it a try just like his big sis.

Nicholas' dad intervened on his behalf. "C'mon, we can let him give it a try, right? I'll stand right next to him and make sure he doesn't drop it or anything." Nicholas was beside himself, dancing on his tippy-toes and waving his hands in giddy anticipation. "PLEASE, MOMMY!!!"

I caved. Gave in to my better judgment. Sure, let's give our boy with the attention span of a gnat a stick of fire. Great idea. We gave him a quick run down of the rules: Stand still. Don't put the fire near anyone else. Don't drop it. Wave it gently in front of you. Don't poke your sister with it. (Yeah, I know this is the same as 'Don't put the fire near anyone else,' but you and I both know that siblings need their own separate rules. Somehow, if you don't specify, kids don't know that siblings fall into the same category as everyone else.)

We gave him the sparkler. Bree was under the supervision of Nana, so I knew she was alright. Five or six of us were with Nicholas, watching the fascination and wonder on his face as he reached out to grab his lit sparkler. He waved it back and forth slowly, watching the lingering trail of smoke it left behind. He turned his head to see if Dad was watching him, but as he turned, his sparkler hand raised up a little too high. "Nicholas! Don't hold it over your head!" I said, voice raised a bit. "Over my head?" he said, and quickly obliged. (Nicholas has a habit of only hearing the last pieces of sentences. He thought I was making a request.) Suddenly, his sparkler sparked, and the little embers landed on his fair hair. My boy was on fire! Actually, only a little bit of his hair was on fire, but still. In the blink of an eye, suddenly the boy had five adults literally beating him about the head, while some other hand reached out to steal the sparkler from his tightly closed fist.

The poor kid was only slightly singed, and it happened before he had any idea what had occurred. He hadn't felt the fire at all; all he knew was that someone took away his sparkler, and all the big people hit him without any warning. Not only that, but his mean mom wouldn't let him have any more sparklers for the rest of the night. He couldn't even enjoy any of the big fireworks, because he couldn't figure out why everyone had inexplicably turned on him. It was probably his least favorite 4th of July ever.

The bonus is, it's probably Bree's favorite. Every year she likes to retell the story: "Remember the time when Brother set himself on fire...?" Since I know it turns out well in the end, it's really a pretty funny story. Except maybe not for Nicholas--I think he might still harbor some latent resentment. It'll probably come up in some future session with his psychiatrist when he's thirty.


  1. "...all he knew was that someone took away his sparkler, and all the big people hit him without any warning."

    That is the funniest thing I have read in awhile! (Since he wasn't hurt!)

  2. You are such a mom. When Nicholas is in therapy fifteen years from now trying to figure out why he slaps himself repeatedly in the head every time he sees fireworks, you can thank yourself for that little nugget. I just hope he doesn't stay till closing time if he takes a girlfriend to Disneyland. Or a Grizzlies game. Or any high school football game in CUSD...

  3. It is a funny story! It's not sad or tragic, except to your son who won't remember except for all of you reminding him year in and year out!

  4. This is funny. I'm so glad he was okay! We had sparklers this year and my son was terrified of them.