Although I grew up in a New Jersey suburb during the 60’s, I like to think my childhood was not too dissimilar to the tales of Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. For instance, here is a story of young boys and fireworks:
Surrounding our newly built neighborhood of cookie-cutter, split-level homes with perfectly manicured lawns were the yet undeveloped areas of dense woods, brown-water creeks and bug-infested wetlands. My friends and I would collect cattails –or ‘punks’- from the banks of the local swamp and bring them home to dry out before using them as slow burning fuse lighters for our arsenal of scavenged fireworks. One particular hot summer day, after setting off a round of firecrackers at the home of one friend whose parents were never home, we retired poolside at my house to cool down and revel in the mastery of our pyrotechnic skills. It was then that my mother appeared at the back door and commented that she had heard some fireworks earlier. Well, like most neighborhoods, there was always a family whose trouble-maker children were useful scapegoats whenever blame needed shifting. “I think it must have been those Elmers boys again!”, I exclaimed while pointing in the direction of their house, which -as luck would have it- was next door to my latch-key friend. My mother was clearly not convinced adding”…it is curious that the fireworks stop whenever you are back here taking a swim”. My friends feared the jig was up but I quickly hatched a plan and soon we returned to my friend’s place and our stash of miniature explosives. Carefully tying the fuses of several firecrackers at staggered lengths along the cattails, we created a time-delayed volley of powdered-sulfur noise. Minutes later we were back at the pool and it wasn’t long before my Mom reappeared, demanding an explanation for the lack of explosions now that we were once again swimming. No sooner had my mother uttered the last accusatory word -and with timing usually only seen in the movies- a series of firecracker pops broke the summer silence.

Published in: Uncategorized on March 27, 2012 at 5:43 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m so happy to have discovered your blog! The drawings remind me of the field notes of great explorers. Beautifully pure & sensitive.

    You were clearly a wicked & devious child 😉 but your creative feint proves that sometimes Mother is the necessity of invention!

  2. Oh yes, reminds me of our neighbors’ homemade swamp.

  3. I love it! Thanks for making me laugh this morning! Are kids that clever these days? 🙂 I almost feel a little sorry for your mom, but mostly remembering how the boys in my neighborhood throwing cherry bombs in the river for easy fishing. I didn’t approve of indiscriminate killing, but it was kind of exciting to watch. Another lovely drawing. I can almost feel how soft your cattail is.

  4. Hi Theo! I haven’t had time to enjoy the IF submissions this week, but just read your comment on my blog (thanks), and that brought me to your submission. LOVE it. Not only a drawing full of character, skill and heart (as expected), but your story really strikes a cord. Funny, and really captures the spirit of the time, the “punks” and my memories of growing up in NJ. Glad the fireworks left you your fingers;)

  5. That was diabolically brilliant! Growing up in Pennsylvania around the same time wasn’t that much different.

    Beautifully textural cattail too.

  6. Did your Mother ever find out? Great sketch.

  7. Great “growing up” story of intelligent mischief! And I love the cattail, I can almost feel the fuzziness.

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