My mother made plans. At 5 p.m., the family would gather at our house for a barbecue. Lovely. After all, it was July Fourth and barbecuing is one of those Independence Day things to do along with seeing fireworks, having picnics, watching baseball, etc.
But there was a problem. We didn’t have a grill.
Well, not exactly. We had the unopened box from Sears with all the parts of a grill.
All we had to do was put it together. My father and I, that is.
My father had a number of good qualities he passed down to me and we shared – love of sports, sense of humor, an appreciation for ice cream, etc. But handy, he was not.
He loved model planes and trains and bliss for him included putting together one and painting it (while eating some ice cream as noted above). Yet putting together anything bigger than a model … well, that wasn’t a strength of his. To put it mildly.
And I inherited this trait, too.
For my father, it was always about the proper tools. He’d search our garage which had more junk than Fred Sandford’s lot. I’m not so sure my father wanted to find the tool he was looking for. If he didn’t find the tool, he could blame the construction issues on not having the proper one.
Maybe, the tool was somewhere in that mess of a garage, but it wouldn’t appear again until it was unneeded.
Anyway, we got outside early and took out all the parts for the grill. We separated and stacked them neatly. Then, we looked at the instructions – there must have been 87 steps. To clarify, it’s not like we were building some ornate fire pit. It was probably a glorified hibachi. However, it was electric – hence the complications.
After a sigh and silent “oh, crap,” we proceeded. We had seven hours to figure this out.
As the day dragged on, we made halting progress. There were meltdowns, questioning if the barbecue looked like the picture, panic attacks, and consideration of ordering pizza. More than a few times, we questioned what my mother was thinking.
At around 3 o’clock, the barbecue looked pretty much like the picture, and we only had a few missing parts. We, in our mechanical wisdom, deemed them unnecessary.
There was one final step. We had to make sure the grill would light. The grill was supposed to light with a simple turn of a knob. However, something went wrong (could blame the manufacturer?) and my father, and I determined we would light a match, throw it in, and turn the knob at the same time.
Before making sure the grill would light, we took a break. We had a cold drink and looked at our creation.
“You think it’ll work?”
“I hope so.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“So, whose going to light it?”
After we couldn’t nurse our drinks any more and with go-time ticking closer, we approached the grill.
My father lit the match and turned the knob. And nothing happened.
He tried again. Nothing happened.
After making a bunch of suggestions and him repeating, “I did that,” we decided to try together.
He would light the match, and I would turn the knob.
I had nightmare visions of creating our own Fourth of July fireworks.
As my father dropped the burning match in, I turned the knob.
And jumped back.
Hey, I prefer pizza.
Anyway, as I jumped back, I smacked into my father who had also taken a few steps back.
My father and I looked on together as the flame caught the fuel and the fire caught. We had put together a working grill. Now, it didn’t look exactly right and it made some odd noises, but that night the family barbecued and everyone was happy.
We did it. My father and I saved Independence Day. And we survived to tell the tale when we later went to see the real fireworks.
A version of this first appeared on Me, Myself and Kids. Photo Danny Gallegos on Unsplash
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