by Sister Kay McMullen, SND
A remembrance of a dad and uncle who made the fourth of July magical and hilarious!
The Fourth of July was grand day at Uncle Leonard’s house in Orinda. Driving out from Berkeley, we left the fog behind on our side of the Caldecott Tunnel. Out at the Burke’s, the sun was out, the macaroni salad perfect, and Mimi’s chicken the best yet. Dessert was watermelon picked sun-hot and sweet from the steep bank below the front lawn. Conversation followed its family syncopated pattern – everyone talking at once in a counterpoint that would make Bach jealous, followed long minutes of quiet. Len was revved for fun.
Sometime in the afternoon, he checked out all the fireworks he had bought in Chinatown and put up the tall stake for the pinwheels, being sure it was securely deep in the ground at the edge of the lawn. My Dad had safety in mind and made sure the hose was ready, “just in case.” Fireworks couldn’t start until dark, though, so we children were persuaded to spend the long hours looking for leprechauns, which, we were told, hung out under the oak tree in the late afternoon and at dusk.
By the time we gave up our search, it was dark enough and Len and Daddy got out the sparklers and bright flaring rockets and pinwheels. Len carefully fixed the pinwheel to the top of the stake while my dad, feigning a casual stance, stood to the side, garden hose on and in hand.
But this one time the pinwheel came off and started chasing Len in huge circles around the lawn. Len, pinwheel at his heels, ran. My dad reacted instantly and started chasing Len with the hose, spraying him and the pinwheel with full force water. Around and around they went splashing after the errant pinwheel in the now-soaked lawn. This was better than the circus by far! At last, and not because of the enormous sprays of water, the pinwheel burned itself out. Len grabbed the hose from my dad and squirted him. Fireworks were forgotten and Mimi was loudly and adamantly forbidding them ever again. But the show went on–dad and Len in water fight front center of back lawn. It was the greatest show on earth, the best Fourth ever.