I remember the sound of Estes rockets zipping apart the summer sky. We'd be standing around together, my dad, my brother and sisters and I, my dad kneeling to light the fuse and stepping back. It meant liberation from the earth, power over fire, over gunpowder, over all of us, and all the neighbors who could hear it and looked up to outrace the sound with their eyes and catch a glimpse of the bright needle as it reached its zenith and poppped a tiny plastic parachute. It never occurred to me that we were the only family that did this, and why, not until a few summers later we heard that sound from someone else's lawn, off in the trees, across the endless flat terrain of our subdivision. We searched the sky but couldn't see it. And never found out who else had glued together the tubes and fins and stuffed the little cone with its chute.
My dad was always picking up new hobbies for us to try, rock polishing, glass art, candles, electric trains. Everything was a lesson in how things worked, what they were made of and why they reacted to what you did to them. Why can you cut glass underwater with a scissors? My father knew. He was half a class shy of his masters' in physics. He was nearly finished, out of Loyola in New Orleans, when the money ran out and my parents moved, with me and my baby sister, to Maryland.
(to be continued)