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    The time of my life: Contest Winner 
 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: April 24, 2017      Views: 194

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I'm Judy.
I love to write.
I teach high school choir to the most amazing students in the world
I have three extremely successful children
One is a lawyer
One is a professional Athlete (UFC)
One is an Auto Mechanic.
I h - more...

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This work has reached the exceptional level
From Life to Death
"The Fireworks Stand" by jusylee72

Life is wonderfully complicated. None of us are good all the time. None of us are bad continually. None of us have the answer to life. All of us have moments when we hate life softened by the times when we understand and treasure the minutes. My family experienced it all while working at a firework's stand.

A teacher friend of mine sat next to me at a computer in-service for our school. We started talking about making it financially in life. She told me her family operated a firework's stand in the summers and at Christmas. It helped to supplement their income. I thought that might be something my family would enjoy doing. She gave me all the information and my husband and I decided to try it.

Doug took on quite a different type of job when he married me - a woman with three children, a family that had lived through abuse, a complicated life story. When we met Matthew was 5, Mandy 10, Nikolas 12. We were a strong group of individuals. Often, Doug felt left out. The children ran to me for everything. Nikolas had a strong connection with his birth father and wanted to leave. Mandy was a gifted child, reading by the time she was three, beginning algebra by the age of five. Mandy and Nik were from my first marriage. Their father and I were young and just didn't belong together. Matthew was from the rebound marriage which was tangled with alcohol and abuse and turmoil. Matthew was the most damaged. When I left that marriage I put his father in jail and moved away. Matthew reacted with anger and sadness. He found school difficult to handle.  Though he was very intelligent, he hated the structure that school demanded.  It was a constant battle just to get him to go to his class. He actually ran away from school and was missing when he was only 7 years old. We didn't find him that day until after 6 p.m.

During all of this, even though he was frustrated, Doug held on and still believed in our marriage and our life. The first time we did the fireworks stand Mandy was 13 years old. We had to camp at the location. It was only five miles from our home so we were able to take turns running home and taking showers. We had to find ways to entertain ourselves. We would turn all the lights out on the stand at 10 at night and have a family game of 'Hide and Seek". We learned how to stock the fireworks stand to make it look beautiful and re-stock when we got large loads of fireworks in, sometimes as late as midnight. We slept in tents and barbecued. Mandy and her best friend Lauren would turn up the radio and dance and sing to the soundtrack of "Coyote Ugly".

Mandy was starting to be a little rebellious. Sometimes, Doug and Mandy would loudly disagree. We discovered the advantage of camping. It is impossible to slam a tent door. The two weeks helped us learn to communicate and grow closer. There was no running away to a bedroom or an escape to sit at the computer or to watch TV. I treasure those weeks.

Throughout the years we continued to have a firework's stand. Eventually, Doug didn't want to do it anymore. I persisted. I knew we would need the money for the children to be able to go to college. Matthew, my youngest, turned out to be an amazing salesperson. He memorized the cost of over 400 items. He was the top salesman. He worked endless hours and learned the meaning of hard work. It truly set him up for success in life.

During High School, Nik got his wish and I allowed him to go live with his Dad in Minneapolis. Nik wanted to be a wrestler. Texas did not have the right opportunities that Minnesota had for that sport. By his senior year, Nik was a state champion. Mandy followed her brother. Minneapolis school district is one of the finest in the nation. During her senior year, Mandy took a class in street law. It was that one class that changed her life. She decided to be a lawyer.

Matthew continued to have trouble in school and eventually dropped out. I would not give up on him and decided to pursue the one thing he was truly interested in. He wanted to be a car mechanic. I homeschooled him through high school. I found a master mechanic Qui Qui, who ran his own business. I paid him twenty dollars a day to school Matthew in mechanics. Qui Qui was enthralled with Matthew. He told me he learned incredibly fast and was a natural.

Matthew got a job at a car parts store, then as a technician at Infinity. When one of his friends at work went to BMW, Matthew followed him there. This year close to his 26th birthday, Matthew received the top award at BMW - Technician of the year. He received a beautiful trophy, a Yeti cooler, a remote control plane and a remote control boat as a reward. He outdid every technician by 1200 clock hours. BMW is sending him to school to become a Master Mechanic. At 26 he makes more money than I do as a high school teacher with 30 years experience.

In 2007, I was working the fireworks stand during July. My mother's health had started to go down hill. She had congestive heart disease. I had one of my former students as an assistant manager for me. Kim was and still is a delight in my life. She is getting married soon and I will treasure that day. Especially for the gift her family and Kim gave me that day.

I received a phone call from my oldest sister, Pam, at 2:00 a.m. the morning of July 4th. "We are at Baptist Hospital. The doctors say you need to come now. Mom is not doing well." I was stunned and not sure what to do. I couldn't leave 30,000 dollars worth of fireworks unattended. I called Kim's home. Her father answered. I apologetically explained the situation. His response was overwhelming. He was at the fireworks twenty-five minutes later with Kim's boyfriend. He told me not to worry about anything and that Kim would handle the workers and that he would keep the fire stand safe.

My husband, Doug, came to get me. We were at the hospital by 3:30 that morning. Mom was already starting her journey to heaven when I got there. She was still breathing but was not responsive. The hospital and the doctor explained the situation to us. They had what is called an in-hospital hospice. They moved us from the ICU into a private room where we could be alone with her. As my nephew wrote in her beautiful obituary, "Ginny Coleman gained her independence from her painful ailing body at 12:04 p.m on July 4th, 2007." After she died, I walked out for a brief moment. When I returned, my sister Pam had placed peppermints on the pillow beside her. She said, "I know it's silly, but she always liked them." I told her I thought it was a beautiful thing to do. Shortly after that, the hospital took Mom away.

I had a decision to make. My husband didn't like it but I returned to the firework's stand. I didn't want to go home and do nothing. I wanted to work and deal with the sadness later. As it turned out, I did both. I worked from 2 until midnight when we closed. We were extremely busy and I managed to be as much help as possible. My nephew and my children were there to help along with many of my students from the school. When we finally closed, I sat beside a small fire pit close to the tent we slept in. I was able to quietly talk to God and my Mom and begin the grieving process.

I sometimes think all of us grew up during those years at the firework's stand. Through hard work, disagreements, exhaustion, laughter and fun. Some of my favorite memories happened at the firework's stand. Mandy and Lauren pretending to be the girls in Coyote Ugly, Matthew and my nephew's Cody and Travis- 6 and 7-year-olds playing hide and seek at midnight. The little ones weren't supposed to be 
in the stand so they stood on the side of the road waving the United States Flag trying to get people to turn in and buy our wares. My mind keeps other memories, Mandy and Doug arguing until they finally communicated, saying goodbye to my mother next to an outdoor firepit and learning the valuable lessons of life - hard work, love, listening and understanding.

Some of my happiest and saddest memories are all connected. As I said before, life is wonderfully complicated.

Happy Fourth of July, Mom. Miss you.


Writing Prompt
Write a short story. The topic is: The best time you ever had in your life. It can be as an adult or as a child. Please keep it clean. Minimum length 100 words. Maximum Length 4,000 words.
The time of my life:
Contest Winner
Pays one point and 2 member cents. Artwork by willie at

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