Fourth of July in NC is rather unusual.
You see, it’s against state law to set off the really cool sky explosions unless you’ve got the proper permits. All fireworks sold here are lame little things that stay firmly attached to the ground. They are not very exciting, and have a very low chance of misfiring and causing harm to any nearby viewers.
If this was done to curb the enthusiastic redneck hicks from setting fire to their own appendages, then it failed spectacularly. It is county tradition to make the forty minute drive to South Carolina and purchase the biggest, most NC-illegal fireworks the stores sell, smuggle them across the state line, then set them off in the backyard and pray that the cops choose not to care.
Because my family tends to be more law-abiding than most when it comes to fireworks–mostly due to Dad’s unwillingness to drive all the way to SC to illegally import banned goods–we get all the boring fireworks. The only time we see good ones is if we travel to White Lake, where some organization has purchased the proper permits to create colorful explosions in the sky.
Other than firework shenanigans, our Fourth is pretty tame. Usually.
But this Fourth of July, my family received a surprise invitation to visit a beach house off the coast of North Carolina.
We left the night before, there being enough spare bedrooms in the beach house to fit a small army within it’s walls.
I, saintlike, offered to drive the family’s dilapidated van to the beach house. Everyone was grateful, until they realized that the only reason I’d offered was because I get carsick in the backseat.
We got there (the younger kids bickering to themselves the entire way, as was proper), and bee-lined for the beach even though it was nearly dark outside.
Except….there was no beach.
Even more disheartening was the scary black stick flotsam that slammed into my feet with every wave. I kept imagining it was jellyfish strings, just waiting to sting me into oblivion.
Then, to make matters worse, I was attacked. Attacked by a crab. To be fair, I probably almost stepped on him because he came flying out of that sand like it was on fire. Scared me to death. I thought it was a frog at first, because we have lots of those at my house. But nope. A pale, beige crab.
It occurs to me that while I find spiders revolting, disgusting, and terrifying, I think crabs are completely adorable. Let’s see–how many legs does the crab have? I’m counting eight. Not counting the pincers, which totally don’t count because they’re not legs. They’re battle claws. Crabs are basically the spiders of the sea. And I still think they’re cute.
After his photoshoot, the crab scuttled hastily off into the sea. And I went inside. Because I wasn’t going to stay out there in the dark with crabs exploding out of the sand. I then proceeded to play online Halo with my cousins until two thirty in the morning and suffer a near-sleepless night of my kid sister (with whom I was sharing a bed) needing to wake me up every so often to make sure I knew that she needed things. Like Tylenol. And to let me know that the sun was up. And that she thought she saw an ant on the covers.
I finally admitted defeat and got up and went downstairs to mingle with other early-ish risers who were chipper. They brightly asked me how my night was.
And then I wanted to roundhouse kick everyone and run screaming into the ocean. But I didn’t. I drank my coffee and suddenly the world was better. And much less stabby.
Eventually, we all went out to the beach. It had decided to become a proper beach while we slept, and there was a good hundred yards or so of gently sloping wet sand. I was excited about it, decided that the beach wasn’t so bad after all, and immediately forgave it for disappointing me the night before.
I was so happy about the beach that I forgot to take any pictures of it.
Instead, I spent my day out in the waves, being buffeted by salt water and wind. I also helped build a kick-ass sand castle. My cousins are very enterprising.
I was so busy enjoying my day that I almost didn’t take any more pictures at all. But when Chip showed up, I couldn’t help myself.
Chip was a tiny little songbird who couldn’t really fly in the strong ocean winds. He tried his best, mind you, but he always kind of looked like he was just being blown about. It was kind of sad to watch him try to fly. We wondered how he got there, since he was so obviously unsuited to beach living.
We didn’t really get to wonder very long because Chip distracted us by being amazing.
He flew over and landed on my brother’s knee. Like it was nothing. “Oh, hello there, I’m just going to be a wild bird sitting on your knee.” We marveled at this for a while. I sat down. Then he hopped over to my knee. I fed him bits of crumbled cracker.
And then he flew up and landed in my hand.
I’m not kidding, guys. In that moment, I was a fairy-tale princess, charming all the wildlife animals by my pure heart alone, singing soprano in the forest.
When I was a girl, I always wanted to have a wild bird land on my hand like they do in the movies. I had long given that dream up, counting it as childhood foolishness and wishful thinking. On July 4th, 2012, my childhood dream came true.
Of course I have pictures:
Chip took turns chirping at each of us, and he sat in the hands of three other people. He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself.
He eventually flew out into the parking lot behind the house and into some guy’s van. I’m not sure what happened to him after that, but I’m pretty sure the guy wasn’t happy to have a bird in his van. Maybe he would have felt differently if he knew that Chip was a magical bird out of a fairy-tale.
My family eventually dispersed back into the house for dinner, and we never saw Chip again during our time at the beach.
That night we watched all our beach neighbors shoot off their illegal fireworks from SC into the air before we left for home. But even though the fireworks were nice, my favorite part of the trip will always be Chip, and his magical childhood-dream-fulfilling-abilities.