Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Burning Bush

'Twas the Fourth of July, six or seven years ago. As in previous years, we were the crazy house where everyone came for dinner and a fireworks show — and what a show it was! Since our town is one of those last bastions of fireworks insanity (where you can buy everything short of firecrackers and M-80s), we always went a little over the top. We'd spend a couple hundred dollars, friends would bring fireworks, too. Before you know it, we had 30 people in the yard and enough fireworks for 90+ minutes.

On this particular year, there was a bit of a breeze. Felt great, since it was hot out, but not good for fireworks that blast 50' into the sky. About an hour into the show, our mistress of the matches, Shannon, lit off something that was supposed to send a dozen flaming balls high into the July 4th sky, each one breaking into a different colored firework. If only.

Instead, the damn thing tipped over the instant it was fully lit. The first ball shot out over the head of the kids in the lawn. The force of the shot made the entire thing spin. It became a crazy Russian roulette of fiery balls. The second ball shot down the center of the street, harmless. I was inside, getting a blanket when I heard all the commotion. "Duck!" "Stay down!" "Run!" What on earth was going on.

As I came out the back door and neared the gate onto the driveway, a flaming ball when whizzing past my head, literally inches away. I ducked ... took a look around and saw that everyone else had scrambled.

Once the firework stopped its crazy dance, we noticed that the neighbors boxwood hedge was on fire. No problem, we had the hose ready to go and a bucket of water. Unfortunately, the hedge was dry. Very, very dry.

So in a matter of seconds, an entire section of the hedge was in flames. The hose wouldn't reach, naturally. As Lisa and a few others ran to use the neighbors hose, Andy and I ran into our backyard ... grabbed big plastic toy tubs ... and dipped them into our kiddie pool. We then ran across the street and tossed the water onto the shrubs. Someone in the house had called 911.

By the time the firetruck arrived a few minutes later, we had managed to put out the flames. Picture a 20-year-old boxwood hedge with a 5' section in the middle charred and smoking, no longer green. 

The capper to the evening? As Lisa was explaining what had happened to the fireman, she accidentally sprayed him with the hose in her hand. His buddies howled ... checked the bush ... told us we had done a great job ... and drove away.

No one said a word. We boxed up the remaining fireworks and gave them to a friend. We swept the street. Everyone packed up their stuff. And the neighbor — who was very nice — told us she was so happy no one was hurt. 

Yes, we bought and planted new boxwoods and purchased a new mailbox, too (the other one had melted in the fire). But that was the last time we ever did fireworks at our house. As I lay in bed this time of year, listening to the pops and bangs and booms in the distance, I wonder if somewhere out there, there may be another burning bush. Happy July 4th, everyone! Make it a safe one!


  1. Here's a wild story for you guys. So, I'm in Washington, D.C. at the American Library Association Annual Convention (this is Bum by the way). A friend and I went to dinner at Old Ebbits (sp?) Grill about a block or two from the White House. Before we went, I changed out of my conference clothes and into shorts and a University of Washington t-shirt as it was about a bazillion degrees during the week we were there (the last full weekend of June). So, we get to the restaurant and I go in to put our name in with the seater person. While I'm in line, I hear someone scream my name and I turn around and see another friend of mine who was also waiting for a table. So we all go outside and begin our hour wait. About halfway through the wait, two middle aged guys come up and start asking me all these questions about the University of Washington and was I in D.C. for the barbeque? and blah, blah, blah. Turns out they were from the Alumni Association's Student Affairs department and their job is to fly around the country and throw parties. So we concluded our old college talk and they moved on and I returned to our group and the conversation.

    So far, this is kind of lame, but the story gets better.

    Finally, an hour later, our table is called and we proceed inside. The seater leads us all the way to the back of the beyond packed restaurant and to a dinky table right between two other very close tables. The table was one of those where one seat is a chair and the other is a bench. So the waiter pulls the table out, my friend goes to be seated, and I'm standing back waiting for her to get situated. The waiter pushes the table back and I sit down in the chair. A moment or two later, the woman at the table to my left says something like "That's a great shirt" of my bright purple shirt with a husky on it and "University of Washington" in big old letters splashed across the front. I agree with her and said something witty like, "oh, did you go there". she replied that she did and then her husband (both looked like they were in their sixties) joined in but he kept going on about being a cougar - so there wasw some good natured ribbing about which was the better school, but in my mind, there's no questions. Anyway, we visited more and found out that he was retired and the wife was a principal in Everett or somewhere and they live in Mukilito (sp?) and they were on their way to Athens to begin a cruise around the eastern Mediterranean. their food came and we ordered ours.

    don't give up because the story gets even better. see the next comment

  2. So, they eat and we wait and during the wait there's a lot of polite conversations about Unviersity of Washington football prospects (about which I know absolutely nothing) and a few other topics about which I probably didn't look to bright. Just as our calamari arrived, I said something about Vancouver and the guy said that they lived in Vancouver. I said something about having attended Columbia River and he said, "You probably owe me a paper. I used to teach there." I think I looked at him like he had tulips growing from his head. He then said that he taught there from 76-77 until the late 80's or early 90's. I about fell off my chair. He told me his name, which sounded vaguely familiar but I couldn't place it -- he couldn't place my last name either. I asked him what he taught and he said biology and after quite a bit of conversation, I figured out that this guy was indeed our biology teacher in the tenth grade, Dennis Gillingham. I about fell off my chair. I was crushed that he didn't remember me (I guess I wasn't as memorable as my ego led me to believe) but he remembered everyone who sat around me (Lori Robb, Mark Bolton (I think was his name), Candace Fullerton) and tons of other people. He somehow keeps in touch with Perry LeDeux and Terry McChesney and maybe a couple others. He mentioned that he worked with Jim Franklin as an assistant coach to the football team so I desperatly tried to think of who I knew who played football and Matt was the only person I could think of. He remembered Matt right away and of course he remembered Lisa. I told him that Lisa married Todd ("Why, sure! I remember Todd Duvall" he said -- but still no recognition of me [ego deflating sigh]) and about Kate and Andy and how nice the kids are. He didn't remember Laura, or Lynn, or Joe, so I guess I'm not alone. He did say that Lisa babysat for his family and asked me several times to please let you guys know he says hello. We had a really nice that evening. I can't get over how amazing it is that if it hadn't been for the fact that I wore a tacky school t-shirt the chance connection probably never would have occurred. Anyway, I don't recall what I had for dinner but it was certainly one of the most memorable meals I've had in a long time.

    So, I promised that I would let you know that Mr. Gillingham says hello and that you're both fondly remembered.

    Hope you're both fine. I enjoy the blog -- it's nice to read the updates of the kids (and you guys, too).