Summer heat does funny things to the minds of southerners. And the humidity doesn't help much either.
Like when I suggested to my husband, at a recent family reunion, that this year we ought to put sober people in charge of the fireworks. He looked around, surveyed the approximate ages of everyone present, and handed enough explosives to lay a new interstate through the Blue Ridge Mountains to our nine year old.
Of course, I can't say he really made a mistake, considering how my grandfather suffered a Saturn Missile mishap one year, how my cousin had shot mortars at the bridge over the lake and stopped traffic, and how several of the responsible grownups had engaged in full-fledged, eye-endangering, bottle rocket battles.
Odds were that our nine year old would set a good example.
And my own heretofore intelligent spouse turned to me, as the kids, practically toddlers, rolled out 40 feet of firecrackers, and said, wistfully, "There's nothing like mortars under a Mississippi moon."
We sat on the hill in lawn chairs adjacent to my parents' Kuntry Star Kamper, listening to Dwight Yoakam croon . . .she's mean and she's evil like a little ole bole weevil . . . My beloved sipped what looked like a Budweiser and, just before the fuse sparked, looked at me with a certain I-need-a-little-more-excitement-in-my-life gaze.
Twenty minutes later, when the smoke cleared, and children poked their heads out from makeshift trenches, he said the strangest thing: "Give me something redneck to do."
Stunned, I looked at him and replied, "Honey, I think you're doing it."
He insisted, "I really mean it."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, do you want to do something like having more babies after the de-vorce?," I asked. Then, offhandedly, I remarked, "I wonder where everybody is? It seems like we don't have as many spectators this year."
"Some are in the lake," he responded dryly.
Remembering the newlywed couples from weddings earlier in the season, I inquired, "Are they skinny dipping?"
"Lucy, you were there when we poured them in."
Ugh. I was. Earlier the same evening, we delivered the cremated remains of my uncle, aunt, and cousin, in a ceremony down on the dock, to their final resting place.
Meanwhile, back to the dynamite display, our four year old daughter held a Roman candle in her hand and turned, with it lit and firing, to request that we watch her. "Lord have mercy," I yelled. "We're about to join them!" This startled our child, who threw the stick of TNT in our direction, making us literally levitate to avoid the colorful blasts emitting from the end.
The excitement still burning the bottoms of our flip-flops, she innocently requested, "Can I do another one?" Her daddy patiently said, "Go ask your brother if he has anymore."
That's when I turned to him, because I had mulled over this redneck thing, and said, "You know, I'm not likely to have any more babies with you, either before or after the de-vorce, which I'm even less liable to give you. But, in light of this fireworks show, you may want to consider looking into how rednecks die."
And I leaned back in my chair, staring into the Mississippi night while a Tennessee star sang from the radio about crashing his car ‚̣cause the chicks dig it.
Maybe it was missiles, maybe it was the southern summer night, maybe it was him, maybe it was me, but . . .
"Sakes alive!" Another fireball whizzed by my ear.