The Summers of Our Youth

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I’m writing this blog today on the Fourth of July and I can’t dare think about an Independence Day without remembering the summers of my childhood. Almost every July was spent at my two grannies’ houses back in Oklahoma. They lived in little bitty towns but that didn’t matter. My cousins also descended on both their places and the fun was non-stop!

When you’re an only child, cousins are the closest people you have to siblings. I adored my cousins. In July, my favorite cousin was always my cousin Timmy. He also lived in California and we were often at our mommas’ momma’s for the big celebration of Independence Day. Granny Mann lived in the little town of Konawa. Her house was just about six blocks from Main Street and that’s where all the action was, because that’s where they sold firecrackers. Yes, I got it right. Not fireworks – firecrackers!

Timmy and I always made sure to save all our chore money to feed our passions for firecrackers. We didn’t spend all our wads all at once but savored each purchase. Every day we’d walk along with our granddaddy to town and see what we should choose next to add to our firecracker arsenals. Of course we had to have loads of Black Cats. They were essential for blowing up soda pop cans and making other non-living things jump. Okay, I think Timmy did blow up a frog or two. I didn’t have the stomach for it.

Then there were the bottle rockets. They could make a number of things take flight right over Granny’s house. We’d hold our breath until they came down, hoping it didn’t land on her roof and burn the whole place down.

We had to be conservative until the big night when all the cousins would come with their own arsenals of firecrackers. Granny had 14 children so you can guess about how many grandkids she had. Nearly all of them were there for the big night of fire in the sky. I can only imagine what the neighbors must have thought when they saw all the cars come pulling in and a million Manns piling out of cars.

The only bad thing about the night of the Fourth was we had to take turns! Kids were everywhere. Little ones with sparklers lined the front porch with their mommas sitting guard right behind them in the iron rocking chairs. My granny would often get so nervous she would retreat into the house to catch her breath. She was sure someone would get hurt or the whole town would burn down. Grannies are like that. They think way too much! It makes me glad that now that I’m a granny that I live in California where firecrackers are outlawed!

Firecrackers weren’t the only entertainment on the Fourth. There were always watermelons in big washtubs on ice and at least three or four ice cream churns being turned by a strong uncle or three. But the firecrackers were the biggest draw and our family wasn’t the only one to set a bunch of them off. We kept our eyes peeled for our neighbor’s displays and the town usually had a big show ended up close over our heads.

They say our sense of smell is the strongest reminder of memories of long ago. I do think it’s true. I can still smell the smoke from a Black Snake or a Black Cat. The background smell was purely rural Oklahoma. No place on earth smells like Oklahoma in the summertime with the red dirt, blooming trees and a humidity to rival any California swanky sauna.

What memories do you have of summers gone by? It’s good to remind yourself and share your memories with the children in your family. Tell them how it was. Try not to water it down too much. The taste of homemade peach ice cream or my granny’s blackberry cobbler can have me talking of at least half an hour.

Thank you for reading. I hope your Fourth of July was wonderful!








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