The road to happiness is littered with lighters

Categorized as 07/13/09 Goshen News column

Huh? What was that you said? After the enthusiastic celebrating with the greater Schrock family over the Fourth, I’m afraid you’ll have to use sign language or I’ll have to read your lips, and I stink at reading lips.

Last month, you heard about all the fun we had when my family came up and transformed the reservation into a KOA campground. Well, I’m here to testify, albeit with sign language, that the Schrocks are no slouches in the fun department. Never mind Mr. Schrock’s snorted directive to “leave my fun factor alone” when I pressed him recently on that switcheroo proposal, reminding him of the many benefits it would afford said factor. The Schrocks are fun, alright. They just don’t stay as long and, in this case, they’re far louder.

The planning for the big hoo-ha began weeks prior to the actual event. It largely consisted of a flurry of texts and phone calls between the cousins, the basic theme of which was, “Do u have ur fireworks yet?” There were slight variations along that line, such as, “Does G’pa have his yet,” and “Did Uncle So-and-so get his,” and “Where ru getting yours?” This occupied them for days.

They decided, after more texting and calling, that shooting bottle rockets from a Mason jar was beneath them, and they made plans to expand their horizons. So it was that two weeks ahead of time, three of their cousins came over. Scrounging around in our barn for materials, they set to work.

Using a hacksaw, hammer and nails, PVC pipe, wood, twine, and duct tape, they built a launcher. The sound of several test rockets being fired off in the back told me their project was finished, and they were ready to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

For reasons that I as an intelligent, right-brained individual cannot comprehend, a man’s pursuit of happiness includes building fires and blowing stuff up, and that path is littered with lighters and spent bottle rockets. I couldn’t explain this phenomenon if you put me on a torture rack, nor could I explain why they all revert to adolescence when the matches come out. I just know it’s true.

It was quite fitting, then, that the three helpful engineers were the first to arrive and that they came bearing noise. A couple of solid blasts of Air-Horn-in-a-Can out the window of their Jeep signaled the official start of the festivities.

We kicked it off with 40 burgers, hot dogs, chips, potato salad, macaroni salad, and a killer fruit salad. Then we added birthday cake, cupcakes, and two tubs of ice cream. After folding in 25 people with nearly as many lawn chairs, all that was left was to start the campfire and say the blessing.

It was a lively night here in our yard with action in every direction. There was a sustained assault on the picnic table by hungry guests. Off to the side, four small cousins enjoyed a picnic on a blanket. A circle of adults talked and ate around the fire.

There were children jumping on the trampoline. They rode on the tire swings. Little people circled the slab on bikes, scooters, trikes, and cars. They ran, chasing and laughing.

Through it all the sound of firecrackers filled the air with eager boys of all ages clustered in the back around the launchers. There was no sharing of tender feelings and deep emotions and catching up on issues with relational implications around the fire by them. That was left for the women, which we tried to do between kerpows as the men expressed their happiness with manly chuckling, high fives, backslapping, fist pumping, and other victorious arm motions.

We did manage to fit birthday celebrations in for two smaller people, darling Niece Emily and our Gabey, causing the men to endure a ceasefire and rendering peace and quiet, though briefly, before they were back at it with the lighters.

Finally, it was time for one last treat…fresh-air donuts. Pulling out the grill, I filled the cast iron skillet with oil. Then, just like Mom showed me, I started making holes in buttermilk biscuits with the help of the nieces. After frying them to a golden brown, we rolled them in sugar, and the girlies trotted off to deliver hot, fresh donuts to the partygoers.

What a wonderful evening we had. It was noisy, it was messy, it was chaotic, and I loved every minute of it. So here’s to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Kaboom!

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