John Wilde, The Glorious Fourth, c. 1957
You can see me in this painting. I’m three years old. I’d been dragged from parade to
pageant to fireworks that day.
You can see the swarm of mosquitoes fighting their way through the clouds of DDT. And
scratchy blanket we sat on, my mom and dad and I. You can see my older sister twirling
baton. My brother’s the kid with the plastic tommy gun. Can you see my Dad’s porkpie
And my mom’s farmer tan?
You can see me. I’m the one with her curly head buried in her mom’s skirt. The one with
hands pressed tightly over her ears. The easily-startled child whimpering “is it over?”
every report. The one wondering why the other children clap with glee and why their
ooh and aah as the balls of fire soar with a shriek, then sprinkle their acrid cinders on the
ground around us.
They still tease me about that that fourth of July. And the next one, when I sit home and
watch the fireworks in miniature through the kitchen window. How I love my mom for
with me, and for making popcorn and letting me have a whole bottle of root beer to
Mom doesn’t care for bombs bursting in air. She’s lived through a war. The war took her
father. And she has a son.