From hand-danced sparklers to eye-popping finales, fireworks in softly dark skies entrance me.
My love affair with the fiery displays began when I waited with my cousins and siblings for our parents to decree the 4th of July sky sufficiently dark for sparklers. Then at last, holding lit magic, we pranced and waved until, inevitably, our fun transformed to attempted brandings, the poking out of eyeballs, and the confiscation of our sparklers by chiding adults. Our family celebrations never included firecrackers, Roman candles, or bottle rockets—we couldn’t be trusted.
Community fireworks, not being participatory in nature, have always given me pleasure from beginning to end. I enjoy gathering with others and waiting for the night sky to burst into brilliance. I like hearing spectators ooh and ah in unison as dogs howl in the background. In 1996, I smiled when I learned Craig, my new home, had splendid 4th of July fireworks.
I even like the pre-game entertainment—searching for the perfect viewing spot. Last year, Joel and I drove around with out-of-town guests checking out possibilities. We debated the merits of several, before agreeing on a location in the foothills we deemed ideal, as did many others.
As we waited for the night to darken, we watched a variety of vehicles and drivers navigate the rutted, narrow road that loops and branches like a confused creek through the area we had chosen.
Some drivers flew over the bumps and ruts: passengers and headlights bouncing. Others crept along, swinging wide to avoid the biggest holes and trying two or three different locations before backing out again and cautiously disappearing over a hill.
Twice we watched a standoff as cars approached from different directions on the constricted roadway. Each driver seemed willing to break the impasse, but unsure how. Eventually, one gunned the engine, lurched up on the steep bank, and waved magnanimously as the other passed.
Most folks had settled by the time the fireworks began, though one SUV cruised slowly back and forth throughout the entire show. Perhaps the occupants couldn’t agree on the best location and their perpetual motion was a compromise.
As always, the fireworks amazed me: small balls of fire erupting into pinwheels, comet tails, and starry streamers; multi-hued lights falling like luminous waterfalls; willows of color fading into the black background of the night.
Too soon, the annual moment of uncertainty arrived: some cars left, others lingered, and indecision reigned:
“Let’s get out of here ahead of the crowd.”
“But was that the finale?”
“No, couldn’t be, usually they finish big.”
“Stop the car, Dad! There’s more. See? Stop!!”
What a fine 4th of July tradition, these fireworks, what a wonderful way to celebrate our country and our love of its goodness.
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