Monday, January 10, 2005

Big Bang

John and I went home to be with my parents in Arkansas for Christmas. Even though the journey by car is nine hours we still prefer to drive. That we do amazes even me since driving through southern Illinois is like looking at hell through oatmeal-colored glasses. The only thing remarkable about that section of the drive is the number of adult book stores and a 198-foot corrugated aluminum cross by the interstate near Effingham. Since I consider myself neither an adult nor a fan of metal crosses, we don't visit either. John wondered aloud this trip if one exists because of the other. Oh, a side note (as if any of this isn't), anytime someone around here hears you say "Effingham" the conditioned response is "what do you have against ham?" followed by mouth-covered giggles.

One of the reasons we drive home at Christmas is because it gives us a chance to be alone and work on memorizing the incidental comments Bing Crosby makes before songs on his Chrismtas CD. Free sample: "A couple of teenage tunesmiths, Bob Wells and Mel Torme' have penned an item quite appropriate for this time of year..." The main reason we drive though is so we can stop at Boomland in Charlston, MO. Boomland is four acres of the finest fireworks selection you are ever likely to see. At least it usually is. This year it was quite a bit smaller than normal. On our way in I asked one of the checkout ladies why this was and she said in a very matter of fact way, "Well, we burned down two months ago." Then with an excited lilt, "This a brand new store!" She was so proud. I asked her if anyone was hurt in the explosion and she said that they got everyone out. We congratulated them. I got a shopping cart, said a little prayer as I walked under the billboard-sized "Absolutely No Smoking!" sign, and headed for the non-reporting sparkly fountains (my favorites).

We stop at Boomland for Christmas fireworks in honor of my Granddad who passed on a few years ago. When we were kids he would always give my sister, our cousins and me each a little bag of fireworks on Christmas Eve. My Dad would light a cigarette for us and we'd take off out the door to shoot them. For the most part we were on our own. We'd light the firecrackers or bottle rockets, put the cigarette in our mouth and run. The only time we involved our parents was when we needed another cigarette or when it came time to light sparklers, which required Granddad's lighter. I never stopped to think about it until later, but our family was probably more like the shepherds than the wisemen when it came to Christmas celebrations. We were rowdy and noisy and the Bible says people thought the shepherds were drunk when they told them about Jesus being born. Well, we weren't drinking, but some of us smoked back in the 80s. And who wouldn't want fireworks at their birthday party?

So for the last few years, John and I have brought home fireworks for Christmas Eve. We try to consider our neighbors since my parents don't live in the country like my grandparents did. We look for "non-reporting" explosives. Inevitably some of the ones we pick most definately do report even though they say they won't. But we at least make sure to steer clear of ones with titles like "Shock and Awe" or my favorite this year, "Public Outrage." I actually circled that one a few times before deciding against it.

No, we tend to lean towards fireworks with names like "Christmas Eve," "Golden Pavilion," and "Shower of Stars." And my sister Christie really likes Roman candles (Rosie, do I capitalize Roman when I'm referring to fireworks and did the Romans really have candles like these?) so we always get a few of those for her. We also get some of those little flower ones that spin on the ground, and those that do nothing but turn into big strobe flashes for a minute or two when you light them. On the 4th of July, my McClain friends and Adam and Brad and I would dance around these once we lit them, so we always called them "Tribal Dance", a most un-p.c. name, I know. I don't know what their actual name is.

On Christmas Eve we had four inches of snow on the ground so the sparkly ones were especially pretty. I would light them on the street in front of our house and my family would stand on the front porch and applaud. This year our neighbors came out to watch, which was especially gratifying. At least I was gratified. They may have been passive-aggressively expressing their disapproval, but either way I'm sure they ended up enjoying themselves.

When Christie decided to light the Roman candles (I'm going to go ahead and err on the side of respect to the Romans) she got in front of our little porch group so that she would aim toward the street (and toward our neighbors' house now that I think about it--no wonder they were watching). She also decided that she would show-off a little and shoot two at once. Everyone is aware of and ignores the fact that you are not even supposed to hold one Roman candle as it fires, but not being one to curtail anyone's holiday fun I lit both fuses anyway.

(Cue fireworks PSA.) I kept looking off in the direction that the fire balls were supposed to go, but nothing was showing up there even though I could hear the sound of them launching. Then I figured out that my sister was holding the Roman candles backwards and the fireballs were shooting at all of us who were backed up against the house! The next few minutes are a little blurry in my memory. The fireballs were like flashbulbs that kept temporarily blinding us so it became hard to see who was where. But I do remember seeing Christie frantically trying to figure out how to flip the Roman candles around to face the right direction without the use of a free hand (someone later suggested that she might have just turned around).

In the meantime my dad, John, my sister's husband, Kevin, and I were doing a new tribal dance, jumping around trying to dodge the fireballs hitting the ground all around us like tiny meteors. My eyes finally adjusted to the light enough to be able to see. My instincts told me to find my mom (I'm not sure if it was out of fear for her safety or my own). I looked around and couldn't see her. I finally found her lying flat on her back on the porch. By this time Christie must have figured out how to send the fireballs in another direction because we were no longer being shot at.

My mom had fallen against the house, bent her glasses, fell flat on her back and then couldn't get up (in retrospect there was no really good reason for her to do that anyway). My mom falls a lot at the holidays. One year we were guests at the McClains for their annual Christmas Eve barn-trek, Christmas story, carol-singing extravaganza. As in any barn, if you are going to stay you sit on hay bales. Mom and Pat (Mom McClain-benefactress of my beloved Christmas tree topper) were sitting pretty high on the bales when something slipped and my mom managed to roll head over heels to the bottom in a heap. This Christmas, as then, once we finally figured out that she was okay, we got her up and did what we always do when someone in our family falls and hurts themselves--mocked her while laughing hysterically. Then we all spent the next 30 minutes looking for my sister's dog, Lucy, who had taken off for the river once Christie began shooting fireballs at her.

Things calmed down enough for us to set off the finale' firework--a sparkly, correctly positioned little number called Heavenly Rainbow, which we all managed to enjoy even though we were still breathing kind of hard. I'm not sure that our little fireworks show was what Jesus had in mind with regard to celebrating Christmas, but I can tell you He got invited to the party at least a dozen times by me alone.


Blogger potterdad said...

I was laughing so hard I could hardly read.

8:06 AM  
Blogger JEB said...

Loved these stories, and you better believe we remember the Ms. Katy story EVERY time we go to the barn.
When J and I made a trip to Cleveland about a year ago, we passed through Effingham, and I must admit I took a picture of that cross while we were driving. Why does it have to be so big?
We, of course, shared the aforementioned mouth-covered giggles when we passed through Effingham. (This was because we had just finished several holiday gatherings where ham was served. Also, Medical Pat was kind enough to pack some ham sandwiches in a cooler for us to enjoy on our trek to Ohio. We decided we didn't want any more Effingham. Oh, the thrills of fake cursing.) :)

8:49 AM  
Blogger Troy said...

JEM, Mmmmm...I love me some of Pat's hamball. Did that go on the trip to Ohio with you? And by the way thanks for stopping in Indy. It was so good to see you and to meet Jay. You're always welcome.

Maybe the cross is so big because there are so many of those adult book stores. If that is the case, I wonder what Eureka Springs, AR is hiding that would make the Big Jesus statue there so large, although I think it only tops out at 60 some odd feet?

5:30 PM  
Blogger Goddard said...


Sorry about not stopping, but I think by that point in the trip we were so strung out on caffeine, cheese balls, hamball, ham (ooooooooohhh that effingham), Fresca and well, the delerium that had slowly started to take us that we didn't stop. Not an excuse, I know, but next time.

I am pushing for the "Booze and Cookies"....that and all of the wonderful dirt that you may have on the various misfortunes of our beloved McClains.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Troy said...

No apologies necessary. We love Fresca by the way! I can handle all of the Effingham in the world if I have enough Fresca!

Come this December, you just belly on up to Indy and bake awhile. What McClain stories you haven't heard already I will glady share. And you can catch me up as well.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

julie here. i'm posting 'anonymously' becaue i don't need the guilt associated with creating a blog and then not maintaining it. for not being a catholic, i got a hell of a dose of guilt?

anyway, if jesus came to your place for christmas, he must have just popped over from the icy, hilly stretch just beyond pleasant plains just one day prior where i invited him multiple times to join me and nanny and papaw for some 'effingham' doughnuts in the crown victoria.

nanny and papaw told mom and dad that i didn't say a word when we went for a spin. i think they were using selective hearing. thankfully.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank the Lord you all made it home safely, Julie. Pat caught me up on all of the travails you endured getting to Batesville. Next time just drive to Indy and ride with us. You can memorize Crosby-speak with us!

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank the Lord you all made it home safely, Julie. Pat caught me up on all of the travails you endured getting to Batesville. Next time just drive to Indy and ride with us. You can memorize Crosby-speak with us!

4:34 PM  

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