There’s a new “Meme” making the Blogosphere rounds that asks for our earliest memory. While working on my second book today, I searched my brain for childhood summertime memories to add some authentic details. And I realized that my earliest and most vivid memories happen to be from our neighborhood July 4th parties. How appropriate!
From age 3 to 8 I lived in the most perfect little Southern California neighborhood, where all the kids were the same age and all the parents were the best of friends. Every Fourth of July we’d have an enormous block party with games and relay races and tons of loud, dangerous (and probably very illegal) fireworks. Two things stand out the most. First, I adored those little snake fireworks. You know, those round, black, nickel-sized discs that grew into log-shaped ashes when you lit them? Loved those! I looked forward to them all year. Second, it was at my first July 4th party (at age 3) that I developed my first real crush on a real boy. Alex was his name, and he was somebody’s cousin who only came around once a year to visit. From the moment we met, we were completely inseparable. And for the next five years, we were reunited and “married” every July 4th. It’s funny. It’s been almost thirty years since I’ve seen the boy, but I can still remember exactly what he looked like (thick, dark, curly hair and pudgy face), the clothes he wore when we met (blue and yellow horizontal striped shirt), and the way he made me feel when he first held my hand (to lead me across the smoky street to the curb where the “snakes” were being lit). My heart still jumps at the memory.
There’s a brilliant scene in the movie Knocked Up (which, BTW, if you haven’t seen it, I order you to drop your Hot Pocket, abandon your Lazy-Boy recliner, and run to the nearest movie theater right now!) where the two dudes are sitting watching kids at the playground and one says something like, “Watching kids play just reminds me how we forget to take pleasure in anything as adults.” Basically, he implies that as we age, the life gets sucked out of us, and we have no fun. In contrast, as kids, we could have a hunk of sand and a stick and we’d
make the fun last for hours.
I have a theory that children’s book writers are just big little kids who desperately want to recapture those days, so we naturally gravitate to the one profession that allows us to live in kid-world day after day. At least, that’s true for me. I’d give anything to be a six-year-old for life. Everything at that age is new and exciting. Your job is to play and have fun. The highlight of the year is
watching little pellets grow into ash-logs. And falling in love is as easy as holding a pudgy hand.
Happy Fourth! Now I insist you go write your name in the air with a sparkler.