(Photo credit: Sarah Nicodemus)
No, I didn’t go see the fireworks at River Parks this year. I didn’t go to see the displays at Southern Hills, Tulsa Country Club, Grand Lake, or the one by my old stopping grounds you could watch from the Wal-Mart in Sapulpa.
What I did for the Fourth of July was, in my opinion, much more entertaining. Sideshow Husband and I went to his parents’ house in Sperry to celebrate Independence Day 2007.
My parents-in-law live in a small development along Highway 11 crammed with homes packed full with large, middle-income families. We had to park at the end of the street and walk to Aaron’s parents’ house because at the time, there was no parking anywhere along the entire street.
After dinner, plenty of parking opened up when residents moved their cars near where we’d parked earlier. They were making way for what would become a one-eighth mile firework launching pad.
After we ate copious amounts of chicken tenders, baked beans, mustard potato salad, tabouli and homemade peach ice cream, the show began. About 70 people flooded the driveways and streets - and that was just Aaron’s parents’ house, next door, the houses across from them and the house across from us.
We got to enjoy everything from illegal pop-bottle rockets duct-taped four together, to chained-together fountains, to circuit-fused shells. For about an hour, the different acts in the light show came at such a rapid succession that I had to make two trips into the house to rinse the smoke taste out of my mouth.
The family across the street put on the best show. Before the sun set, the homeowner brought a roll of Black Cats to the street-turned-launch pad that was so large he had trouble wrapping his arms around it.
Being a former band kid, I’ve heard a lot of really loud sounds. However, I have never heard anything as loud as that roll of Black Cats going off for what was probably three and a half minutes.
After dark, they strung together what was probably hundreds of those ear-splitting missile things. This display stopped all other action on the street, again for several minutes, and was followed by applause and cheering from up and down the entire street.
There was a pretty serious accident at the house next door to us. In the tradition of the people who live in this neighborhood, a group of boys from that house set up a long circuit of tubes full of shells that make those huge starbursts in the sky. One of the tubes fell toward the house and shot a shell at the tightly packed clutch of family and friends gathered in the driveway. We saw a wave of green sparks fly from the house, and everyone went quiet as we heard a child screaming and the family hustled him indoors. They didn’t resume shooting fireworks until much later in the evening, so I assume the child was hurt. We didn’t hear any official news from the other side of the fence, though.
Aside from that incident, I don’t know of any other mishaps or injuries that took place last night. One of our tubes tipped over a shot a missile-type firework at the open van in our driveway, which was full of my brother-in-law’s pyrotechnics. Nothing catastrophic happened, but you can bet I’ve never seen my father-in-law move so fast.
What I really like about celebrating Independence Day at Aaron’s parents’ is the mass exodus of all the neighborhood families from their homes and into the street to light fireworks together – or, sometimes, at each other. Everyone is eating, laughing, lighting things on fire and having a great time. All the residents seem to know each other, since I saw several people fluttering from yard to yard, swapping fireworks lighting groups and finding other porches on which to have another beer. Several people were cruising the launch pad on go-carts or on foot, since the number of people and debris in the street made the road virtually impassable to cars and trucks.
I come from a good ol’ part of Tulsa, but I’ve never seen a community pull together to such a magnitude without a natural disaster demanding everyone’s helping hands.
I wish more neighborhoods in Tulsa proper were like this. Ours certainly isn’t. Where we live, the gap between the growing number of absentee landlords and their tenants and the middle-income elderly folks who are dismayed at the so-called growing crime rate in the neighborhood that they are sure is a result of the low-income tenants makes getting together for the annual homeowners’ association garage sale or picnic tense enough.
It’s strange how Fourth of July celebrations can vary so widely in a relatively small city. I know that fireworks shows at venues like River Parks and the local country clubs bring thousands of Tulsans together, but I’d like to see a little more grassroots activity. You can’t commiserate with your next-door neighbor over picnic food about the kid who blasts his music when he drives by if you do all your holiday celebrating at River Parks, and you can’t hold the new neighborhood babies at a country club fireworks show – at least, not the new babies in my neighborhood.
Though we can share a great experience with multitudes at a mainstream venue, when there are so many people around, we don’t get to interact, really, with anybody. Neighborhood-level celebrations would help reinforce that comfortably cosmopolitan feel (see Tulsa Convention and Visitor's Bureau's new Web site) that really does come naturally to this town.