Bottle Rockets, Black Cats and Family Memories

For as long as I can remember I have loved fireworks. The booming sounds, the bright colors, the fact that they bring people together, I don’t know exactly, but there is something about them that excites me deep in my soul.

I was extremely lucky as a child when we would spend our July 4th in Colorado visiting my grandmother and my uncles, because they would take fireworks to a whole new level. We would go with them to the giant fireworks store and thanks to my mother’s Texas driver’s license, we would get access to the back room…where all the really, really AWESOME fireworks were kept. The ones that you had to swear you were not setting off in Colorado, but instead were transporting across state lines to destroy God’s earth somewhere else. Of course, my uncles had every intention of setting them off in Colorado, in fact they planned to light them right in my grandmother’s suburban driveway. In hindsight, as an adult, I can see the potential for danger in this plan, but as a child, I was in heaven.

The bigger the base of the rocket, the better for these boys men, because that totally meant that their two nieces were going to laugh and squeal with delight as the firework went screaming into the night sky and came crashing back down again, hopefully not on the neighbor’s lawn. My grandmother’s driveway had a small drain pipe in it that was the perfect size for a bottle rocket to fit inside and nothing was cooler than seeing the mud and sludge that would come shooting out of it along with the bottle rocket when my uncles had finished lighting it. They would shoot fireworks from their cars as they drove them slowly down my grandmother’s tiny street. In fact, y’all, my uncle used to shoot bottle bottle rockets off his 14th floor apartment balcony in downtown Denver. It was a simpler time back then, I think.

So many of my greatest childhood memories are in Colorado, with those uncles, my grandmother, my sister and to a lesser degree my parents, not necessarily because they were my parents, but more because they tended to fade into the background for me during those visits. I used that time to soak up every moment, every minute with my uncles, in particular, as childless men, they catered to our every whim, seeming to make every wish come true, all while making us laugh until our stomachs ached.

It pains me to know that this 4th of July, in one of the most beautiful states I know, so many people are not able to have official 4th of July celebrations because they are simply trying to cope with the devastating loss of their homes from massive wildfires. The fact that it comes so close to a holiday that is symbolized by exploding cannons of sparks somehow brings it to a whole new level of importance. The firefighters who are out there in temperatures bordering on triple digits simply trying to save more families from the losing all of their possessions is to be commended and honored. To remember the memories of my childhood, to help the state I love, and to celebrate the uncles who still call it home, this 4th of July I will be making a donation to Care and Share.Org, which is the food bank for Southern Colorado.

Care and Share is doing amazing work on the ground right now. They are providing both evacuees and firefighters with food and supplies, which are so needed. Raising Colorado (one of my favorite blogs, as you know) shared on Facebook that they even took the firefighters clean socks!


Click here to donate to families in need:


Bottle Rockets, Black Cats and Family Memories — 31 Comments

  1. Those are such beautiful memories. They made me remember 4th of July celebrations from my childhood, when things were much more simple. Sometimes I wish I could go back, but I wouldn’t trade my little ones for anything 🙂

    Happy 4th to you and your family!

    • I totally agree with you Erin. I would love to relive some of those days, but life is too sweet right now! 🙂
      Hope you had a lovely July 4th!

  2. Wonderful writing Ashley. Such beautiful memories. There is so much devestation in Colorado and quite frankly all over the damn place on this earth, that holding on to the pieces of joy in our world is one of the little wonders we will always have to hold on to; memories or building them. Thank God there are still lots of pieces of joy to be had. 🙂

  3. Fourth of July had always been a special holiday for me too. When I was growing up we would head out the County Fair Grounds (think Charlotte’s Web fairgrounds) for annual fireworks. Such sweet, simple, happy memories. I am wanting those same kinds of memories for my own kid’s.

    • I can picture it totally. It sounds fantastic and completely simple and happy…and also now tells me why you like the fair. 🙂

  4. Yes, you are a fireworks maniac. We enjoyed blowing stuff up for you kids as much as you enjoyed the explosions. Your mom and grandmother loved them too. Even when we set the shrubs on fire (we had the hose handy for such events). Although your dad seemed to disavow any knowledge of our activities, or that he even knew us at all.
    It has been a very different 4th this year in Colorado. Absolutely nobody has been setting firecrackers off in the neighborhoods and there aren’t any fireworks stands around town where there used to be dozens. Just not worth it with the heat and dryness.
    I hope you and Robert and the girls have an awesome holiday!

    • See, y’all were totally responsible illegal firework users! 😉
      I am so sorry to hear about this year, it just breaks my heart. Seeing the pictures of the devastation out there is so sad.

  5. Your Uncle John has told me the story about shooting fireworks off his 14th story balcony. In his version, however, you were doing the shooting and he was an innocent bystander. (I never bought into that part.) And thank you for your lovely tribute to Colorado and kind support of our state. It’s really nice to know that even people far away are concerned and care.

    • That is definitely weird that he would remember it that way! 😉
      I really hope that things start to turn around out there for you all soon, as I know it must be heartbreaking to see such loss.

  6. Oh Colorado summers of soft grass, practicing Dirty Dancing moves, and hanging with the uncles. My ribs will never be the same from how hard my Uncle Bill hugged me, and both of them did make us laugh to tears. I loved this post – it brought back so many great memories, and yes, it does feel like those were the halcyon days of youth, for sure. Love you sister!

    • And your comment was just so wonderful because it reminded me of so many other memories. 🙂 Thank you!

  7. {Kathy} Your childless uncles story made me remember being “the childless aunt.” My nieces provided plenty of opportunity to play around and be “cool” for them during my late teens and early twenties. Extended family nourishes children in ways parents cannot.

    • What a fantastic comment. 🙂 I absolutely agree with everything you said here so much! Thank you!

  8. Obviously I think this is one of the best columns you’ve ever written. At the end of the line about John shooting them off his balcony you might have added “while I stood next to him egging him on”.
    We were extremely lucky too, not only that we got to play with fireworks but that we had great nieces and a sister who liked them too.

    • I totally should have added that part, you are right. I figured it was implied! 😉
      We are so grateful that you and John were so fantastic to us! 🙂

  9. I used to go to Freedom Park with my aunt and my family for the fireworks – great memories – but you are right – life seemed so much simpler then. Makes me sad to think that. Great idea about Colorado and the donation information!

    • Awww, Freedom Park, that is in my neck of the woods!! 🙂 Thank you for this comment, I loved it!

  10. We skipped fireworks this year, too. We’re in Utah, so we’re also fighting fires here. We got pizza and watched Independence Day. It was relaxing and we knew for certain that we wouldn’t contribute to the destruction that day.

    Thanks for sharing. Stopping by from SITS.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this. It sounds like despite the conditions (I am so sorry you are also facing fires) y’all made the best of it. Good for you! 🙂

  11. Thanks for taking the time to remember those affected by the wildfires and for suggesting a way for others to make a difference!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *