We stopped going there when civilization had so encroached on Uncle Larry's property that his fear of setting a neighbor's house ablaze overcame his delight in the fire in the sky.
Aunt Shirley would invite their friends and a few of the neighbors. Uncle Ed, Aunt Joan and my cousin Beth and her family were always there. Aunt Shirley's cousin Jimmy usually drove over. He was more a spectator than firestarter, though.
As the kids got older, they were allowed to help, under the Captain's supervision. One year Uncle Ed devoted some weeks to constructing an elaborate set up that would allow him to wire dozens of bottle rocks or some such blow-up items so they'd go off in one, long kaleidiscope of color and noise and smoke. I can't remember if that's the year a rocket went wonky and almost set Beth's hair on fire.
Sure it wouldn't have been funny had she gone up in smoke, but she didn't, so it was hilarious. Other the birdbath, which Jeff decapitated in a rush to avoid a similar catastrophe one year, there were never any serious injuries.
It was hell on the ears, both human and canine. But the kids -- gray hair and curls just coming in -- loved it.
The next day, Uncle Ed would go drag Christopher and Cory Lehman (Beth's boys) out of bed and make them comb through Uncle Larry's yard to clean up debris. It was the least they could do, he'd say. He always volunteered them before everyone had trotted off for the night. I'm not sure they were happy janitors but Uncle Ed was a fabulous uncle and an even better Grandpa, I suspect. Anytime spent with him would have been pretty special.
Both he and Aunt Joan are gone now, but I think of them throughout the year and always on the Fourth. The sound of Uncle Ed and Larry's giggling in the dark will be forever with me. Especially as I still have Jeff and he titters like a little girl at just the thought of getting to blow stuff up.
Since the moratorium on the Columbus fireworks, we've been traveling back home for several years, blowing stuff up in the country, generally with a few volunteer fire department folks in attendance. This year, though, Alison is home only for a day from her week with Auntie Jen and Uncle Peter in Maine before she goes to Flat Rock River Camp.
So we opted for blowing stuff up at the local park. Jeff primed our favorite retail firebug, Tom Vielee, with alcoholic root beer and bourbon, to restock his firework supplies. Our friends, the Jansens down the street, and Team Ogden contributed some firey goodness as well.
We drew a fairly nice crowd and Jeff got lots of oohs and aahs. Once, when he didn't get what he felt was his due, we heard, "Hey, where's my audience?"
"It's just like the Christmas CD," Karin stage whispered to Kirsten Jasheway. "If you don't show the proper appreciation you might get taken off the list."
So back to the oohing and aahing we went.
This morning, chock full of the spirit of Uncle Ed, Ali and Jeff went back to the park to clean up. I joined them a bit later. We got a lot, but might not have gotten all the debris. Especially any that rained down on the neighborhood across the Monon. But I figure that's the price of admission for anyone who enjoyed the unexpected show.
As for those not pleased? Well. I don't know who was making such a blasted commotion at Canterbury Park last night.