As a writer, I’m an avid people watcher/hypothesizer/analyzer. And, honestly, I think there’s no other holiday that’s as revealing about individual character than the Fourth of July.
Sure, like any other holiday, we all have are own particular childhood memories of Independence Days long gone, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how we react to the holiday as full-blown adults.
Some people go all out for it, buying hundreds of dollars of fire works, grilling up a storm, drinking and lighting up the sky well into the dark. Others hunker down in their homes, wrapping their dogs in “thunder shirts” while contemplating a non-emergency call to the police department to report a neighbor or eight for breaking city ordinances about fireworks. And others, like me, are somewhere in the middle.
My neighbor—I think—is in a class by himself.
A quiet, middle-aged vet, he’s very, very patriotic. And, thus, the Fourth of July is his favorite holiday.
One he celebrates by tossing homemade M-80s into his backyard at random intervals all day while getting progressively drunker.
And, just in case you don’t know what an M-80 is (I didn’t until it rattled my windows for the first time), it’s a giant-ass firework that doesn’t produce pretty colors or designs or anything like that. All it does is explode. LOUDLY.
Yes, basically, for nearly twenty-four hours each year, our quaint little Kansas neighborhood sounds like a periodic war zone.
I am not exaggerating. Every time one goes off, kids start crying (not just my kid, but pretty much any child within a block radius), birds shoot out of the trees, and my big-eared Welsh corgi nearly pees where she’s standing.
You can imagine that our first year in the house, this did not go over well. There’d been no warning. Our son was about 18 months and still napping, and our dog’s hearing was much better than it is today. I’d never really seen myself as an Independence Day scrooge until that first holiday, when, dealing with a cranky toddler and dog pee, I wondered why the hell people do stuff like that.
I mean, my neighbor has to know it’s annoying. He has to know it upsets children and animals. He has to know it’s illegal to A. blow up fireworks within our city limits and B. make your own fireworks to illegally blow up in our city limits. (I’m sure the cop that lives on the other side of him also knows this, but I digress.)
But the Fourth of July is his thing.
He’s a good neighbor. He gifts us food from his garden, helps my hubby with projects, invites us to his house for an annual Christmas party. He pets our dog, smiles and waves, and gamely has conversations with my five-year-old over the fence.
Yes. A very good neighbor.
With a very specialized reaction to the Fourth of July.
And years from now, that will be probably what I remember most about our neighbor. His love of the Fourth has been permanently etched into my own personal character sketch of him.
How would your main character respond to the holiday?