They Ban Cracker Night!
Saturday night on the Queen’s birthday weekend when I was growing up meant cracker night- we had a roaring bonfire, one of which you would spend the entire day building. Then it was time to line up the six glass beer bottles, one for each child and yes back in the good old days we were environmentally aware we had glass bottles that we recycled from dad. The box of matches from the highest shelf was next on the agenda followed by retrieving the suitcase full of fireworks from under the bed. That old tattered brown suitcase held all our expectations for a successful night. We would check that dad had his supply of the amber fluid and then we would wait for the sun to go down. And when it did it was time for the fun to begin.
Then they banned cracker night.
Those in the know deemed it too dangerous. Dangerous? Who are they kidding? So what if we threw a few bungers at our sooky older brother. So what if some of us lost an eyebrow once in a while or our eyelashes it wasn’t like they didn’t grow back. So what if our rockets would sometimes fly off course. We were not rocket scientist we were kids. Sometimes we just forgot to allow for the wind or we didn’t anchor the bottle properly. It was no big deal we only hit the next door neighbour once and her dog did come back… eventually. We only ever set fire to the shed that one time, we never killed the cat, and if we started out with six kids we always finished with six kids.
Our safety measures were second to none. We had a hose on standby, a phone box up the street and dad.
We were far from being budding serial killers in the making. Pyromania is a long way from letting off a few roman candles and no one could ever prove it was us who tried to blow up the psycho neighbour’s letter box.
We lived on the edge but at least we lived. Not like the kids these days. Going outside in the cold armed with only sparklers that they aren’t even allowed to light themselves, wearing gloves and safety glasses is as tame as it is lame. Where is the fun in that? Is it any wonder kids today are so sensitive. Childhoods are being ruined. Let them experience life the way it was meant to be experienced. The six of us knew cracker night was not only educational it was entertaining and it involved plenty of physical activity. Running around the backyard dodging wayward crackers was so good for our health. And as those Catherine Wheels nailed to the wooden fence picked up speed spinning around and around you would watch closely not just at the wonderful array of colour but to see which one would get loose because without a doubt one would and you knew it was time to hit the deck.
“Incoming.” Was the cry.
Lighting your rockets and running for a safe vantage point at least ten feet away taught you the importance of being quick, we learned early the importance of lighting a match correctly and we taught our youngest sister how to put just the right amount of fuel to keep the bonfire going.
Entertainment value alone was priceless especially when your oldest brother was being bombarded with bungers or when dad just managed to escape from a roman candle that decided to chuck a hissy fit. He came out of it unscathed along with his beer.
“Geez that was close,” he’d say, “I never spilt a drop.”
Those were the days.
And then it was all over. We had lit our last wick. We have fuelled out last bonfire. We had lost our last eyebrow and we had lost life as we knew it. It was over.
They banned cracker night.
I was feeling rather nostalgic on Saturday night. As the sun disappeared I remembered those cracker nights from long ago. Sitting close to the fire with glow in the dark sticks didn’t quite do it for me. Although I did learn something as I sat pondering the fact that petrol was far too expensive to throw into the fire I learned that they should bring back cracker night and ban football instead but not just any football.
They should ban close call.
My reminiscing of long ago cracker nights ended at the first bounce and as the quarter went on I felt confident. By half time I was almost cocky at the sight of the scoreboard. At three quarter time I began to plan the next day’s lunch menu. Then the last quarter began and it didn’t take long for my anxiety disorder to put in a personal appearance. Actually it made a bigger comeback than a fourth quarter Essendon second half revival. By the time the five-minute warning sounded I was a nervous wreck. I had no fingernails and I would have started on my toe nails but I haven’t been that close to them in twenty years.
I couldn’t watch. I had to watch. I couldn’t watch. I should watch. If I watched they would lose. If I didn’t watch they will lose. I couldn’t watch. I watched.
Those last seconds took an eternity to pass and when they did I was demanding the reintroduction to cracker night. It has to be safer than watching the football. These matches are far more dangerous than the ones we played with when we were kids. How is sitting through that type of game good for my health? Since when is possible cardiac failure better than letting off a few bungers? I never almost needed an ambulance on any of the cracker nights I participated in. Not once did I ever feel my heart stop as I ran around the backyard avoiding feral fireworks and I never needed sedation or a paper bag. The most pain I endured with cracker night was from all that laughing I did as I watched my brother hiding and crying behind the shed probably in the same manner as the Essendon supporters did on Saturday night.