All Hail the Fourth!
(originally published July, 2017)
I didn’t experience my first fireworks show until I was in my twenties. For some reason my parents, neither of whom had a driver’s license, thought it necessary or convenient to take me to see a show. My early July 4th celebrations were at a relative’s house with my aunts, uncles and cousins from my father’s side. There were firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80s, bottle rockets, Roman candles, etc, but when most gathered at the end of the day to caravan to an actual fireworks display, my father chose instead to take us home. I was never upset because I didn’t know what I was missing, having only seen the explosive sky displays on television, on shows like the opening intro of the Honeymooners.
My initial viewing of an aerial light show was over Disneyland, but I was several miles away and couldn’t hear them. When I moved back from California to New Jersey my hometown decided to present their own celebration of Independence Day. I went with a few friends, spread a blanket over the grassy field, and waited.
I was not disappointed.
When the first rocket was launched to start the show, I could never have anticipated what was being offered. The incredible, explosive volume, coupled with the percussion I felt against my chest and my face was exhilarating. It was immediately followed by the brilliancy of exploding and ever-expanding lights of fire, racing outward from their own big bang to fill the night sky with a smorgasbord of colors, streaking in a circular unity towards their own demise. This was followed by another blast of illumination, radiating into yet another unique pattern. On and on I thrilled at the visualness, interspersed by the booming sonic distortions that pierced the night, its audible reverberations easily heard from miles away. Some displays sizzled, others produced their own offspring: sperm-shaped balls of fire that raced from their source to quickly fade into the blackness of the night sky behind them.
Then the finale. As the show was winding down and I sat there realizing what it was I had been deprived of for so long, the entire world over my head erupted in a deluge of blasts and fire, non-stop for several minutes of chest-pounding, ear-splitting, visually stunning bravura of an entertainment arsenal. After it was over, the crowd applauded. I did too, with a gratitude that came from my heart.
For many years after that I never missed a July 4th fireworks show. My hometown only ran them for a few years but there were plenty of choices with so many neighboring towns choosing to honor our Founding Father’s ratifying the Declaration of Independence with festivals of hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream and fireworks. When my children came along I made sure they had the experience right from the get-go. In fact, by chance the Mrs and I purchased a home two blocks from the field where our town held their celebration. We could sit on our porch and both see and hear the shells exploding over the river. We would take them to minor league ballgames only on fireworks nights. The kid in me was enjoying the experience through their eyes over and over again.
So, celebrate our Independence. We’ve earned it and Washington, Adams and Franklin would be proud of the grandeur born of the audacity of telling Mother England to get lost! Take your children, watch their eyes light up with fascination of both shock and excitement. And take your parents.
I wish I did.