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This July 4th was ‘sizzling’
Patty Leon

What’s not to love about the Fourth of July?

Well the smell of burning hair might be one thing. Typically scorched hair isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a fun family gathering celebrating the summer holiday.

On this particular summer, the Fourth of July party was going to be in our backyard. 

I lived in a two story house in Little Havana, which is actually in Miami, Fla., not Cuba. It was a section of Miami where a large group of Cuban immigrants migrated to and made it their own version of home. 

It was going to be a huge gathering so Dad set up massive tables across the back yard, while mom prepared the grand meal. Earlier in the day mom had made an appointmnt for both of us to get our hair done. 

She didn’t tell me this ahead of time because she knew I hated getting my hair permed. The stuff they used stunk and sometimes burned my scalp. I have fine hair, and the perm would only last a few days on me while my mom’s perm lasted forever. 

All styled and coiffed, we headed back home. My Dad and Mom promptly went to work getting the food ready. My brother and I were sent upstairs and put on our fancy clothes.

Then the relatives started to arrive. Add to that the neighbors we had that were mostly like family and soon the house was packed.

My brother and cousins and the other neighborhood boys would gather together to play fun games and likely be up to no good. 

I was the third youngest of the female cousins and about seven or eight years old at the time. My two younger cousins and I would often shy away from the other girls. The three of us were somewhat Tom-boys and longed to be able to run around with my older brother and his group instead of playing dress up and tea with the others. 

With every one so fixated on the food and the parental units busy sharing stories while sipping wine, the three of us rushed off to see what kind of trouble my brother and his cohorts were getting into.

I was just happy to peel off the dress my mom had picked out for the day. It was a yellow and blue striped polyester dress with matching bonnet. It was awful and hot. We went up to my room donned on some comfy clothes and went out in search of the boys.

It didn’t take long to find them. They were on the sidewalk just three houses down. All I could see as we approached were colorful lighted objects, some spinning on the sidewalk, some in their hands. 

Somehow, they had gotten some fireworks and sparklers. My two adventurous cousins and I ran towards the group. Of course, they told us to go back home or they would tell on us.

“Fine we’ll just go back and tell them you are playing with sparklers,” we said collectively. Knowing they might get into trouble they let us stay.

All was going great and we were having a blast twirling our sparklers around as we danced on the sidewalk. The boys would toss their sparklers into the air just before they burned out. 

Running out of matches we stood in a circle and held the tips of all our sparklers together so we could light them up with just one match. Suddenly all the sparklers flared up. It was a quick burst of flames and they were all lit. I started to twirl mine around and dance. Then I smelled something weird. 

The flash had lit my hair on fire due to the perm chemicals. Of course, all I did was freak out and start to run which didn’t help the matter. Someone grabbed the hose, turned it on and doused me.

There I stood, with the right side of my hair partially sizzled away like an awkward side Mohawk cut. I was drenched and sobbing. Everyone scattered and I ran to my room. 

The family was soon alerted by my hollering sobs, the jig was up - we were busted. 

Mom had to take me to get my haircut short to remove the damaged hair. I ended up with a boy cut, looking like my brother. 

Thinking back, I was grateful that I had changed out of that polyester dress. I would have been totally lit up like a human torch with that bonnet on my head.

It wouldn’t be the last time I would get in trouble. Not even close. But it was the last time my mom took me to get my hair permed.

What’s your favorite Fourth of July story?

Patty Leon

Senior Editor

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