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I was maybe 9 or 10, a child eagerly awaiting the thrills of Independence Day when my mother tied the American flag to the railing on a hot July morning. As she tried to explain some of its significance to me,my attention turned to my friends who were already roller-skating along the empty street. Valerie called my name, telling me to come to her family's barbecue later that evening.
We were supposed to have our own barbecue with some family members attending, but that usually erupted into a litany of grief where alcohol flowed as freely as a sprinkler watering grass during a storm. My parents were on the cusp of divorce, but I instinctively knew that something was wrong. When the guests had arrived, my father retreated to the basement where he sat for hours reading the paper and watching TV within a wall of silence. Outside, after hugs and kisses, the chatter began, but I could sense an edge of tension rising among them. Throughout the afternoon, I st on the swing, kicking higher and higher as the drama unfolded until I jumped off the swing and went to Valerie's house for the occasion. From silence to shouting, the walls were collapsing around me...
Valerie was my best friend, the youngest of three sisters of immigrant parents. After a traditional dinner of hamburgers and salads, Valerie and I sat on her front porch as she showed me the lastest wardrobe for her Besty McCall dolls. Her relatives sat in relative peace, chattering in German sprinkled with words of English. As Valerie's mother cut the watermelon into slices, the first displays to colorful rockets had sprinkled magic through the air. Her mother had then given us some sparklers to celebrate the occasion as we strutted through the darkness bearing our torches of freedom and independence. The evening ended with absolute excitement as the other kids on the block joined us in games while grabbing the remnants of food left on the table. The best was yet to come when we caught fireflies, placing them into jars to keep them as pets that we hoped would live a very long life.
When we left for our homes, filled to the brim with laughter, the darkness had also brought about the blast of firecrackers and bombs turning a peaceful day into a nightmare of mayhem. The neighborhood dogs barked with alarm as their owners tried to subdue them. With a storm approaching, the families had quickly cleared their yards while anticipating the 10 PM news and retiring for night.
I had just crossed the street when a deafening blast of thunder accompanied the streaks of lightening while the winds swept away all the remnants of a memorable day. My mother was on the front porch calling my name. As I walked up the stairs, she wrapped me in a towel soaking up the rain while my father asked me where I had been. I then went to bed, looking out the window to see the stars reclaiming the visions of night in a child's mind. I then thought of my parents as two very good people as stars that could never exist in the same constellation.
As I looked towad my fireflies lighting up the room, they were sprinkling light on the hopes and dreams of a future yet to come...