Celebrating the Fourth of July in my part of the hood, Gravesend, in the 1960s and ’70s meant firecrackers, lots and lots of firecrackers. The streets would be filled with the empty paper casings of bandoliers, ash-cans and bottle rockets come the next morning, making the block look like the Canyon of Heroes after a New York Yankees parade.
My block was small, only about 12 houses, so we would all chip in with big push brooms and clean up the mess, then take out the hoses to complete the ablution. Water fights undoubtedly broke out and the clean-up endedwith a sparkling street and us soaking wet.
One of the cardinal rules of traveling on the night of the Fourth was to never have your car window open. My parents would admonish, “You don’t know who will throw a cherry bomb in the car as you drive.”
But time, expense and Rudy Giuliani ended the reign of firecracker madness and now the Fourth, although there are still a few areas left that indulge in the pastime, is mostly cherry-bomb free and the streets are a lot safer.
Like so many other memories, the open car window one was buried way back in the cobwebs until my brother, whose call late on July 4, dredged it up. It was about 8:30 pm his time — he’s in California — and he was on his way to work when he decided to call. I was just about to leave to pick up my daughter from a friend’s house when the phone rang. I rushed to pick it up thinking it was Bri, but instead it was Al on the other end. We talked a bit, the usual same old same old, “How are you, I’m fine how about you” and then I explained that I couldn’t chat for long because I had to pick up Bri from Steph’s house.
As he said goodbye, along with his usual, “Take care of yourself, love you,” he added,“Don’t drive with the windows open, you don’t know who is going to throw a firecracker in.”
Not for nuthin™, but for one split-second there I was, not the mother of a teenager and wife, but a kid again, 37 years younger foot-loose and fancy free, driving off in my convertible 1969 Buick Electra 225 with my mother’s voice ringing in my ear, “Keep the windows closed — you don’t know who will throw a cherry bomb in.” Thanks Al.