Mad George and the Avuncular Roman Candle

For phonophobes, July 4 is the light version—thanks to Big Brother—of Bonfire night, with George III as the “guy.”

Fifty years ago Independence Day was observed more in keeping with John Adams’ vision of the day. In small-town Kansas, where I grew up, explosions began a week early and continued unimpeded through the holiday.

Photo by Alejo Storni on Unsplash

Relatives from states where fireworks were prohibited would visit to experience the ear-popping glory of it all. My Florida uncle chased my cousins and me around the house with a live Roman candle in hand, his whooping and laughter mingling with our screams as the fireballs narrowly missed our heads. My mother saved us by issuing a sharp rebuke to the adult who should have known better. We all felt pity for him when with stooped shoulders and head held low he slinked into the house.

He returned with his Roman candles the next year and the year after that until fireworks were banned in our town as well. Too many roof fires and scorched children filled emergency rooms in the land of the free.

I am sure mad old King George would be happy that our fear of risk would finally spoil Adams’ celebration. Let them pick on Guy Fawkes instead. But some of us will light our Roman candles in secret and remember that imminent risk is cheek and jowl with exquisite joy.