Last year, I watched our town’s 4th of July fireworks display from the Target parking lot about a half-mile from ground zero (of the display, that is). It was sad, but I was far from alone–families opened SUV trunks and pulled out folding chairs. Kids ran up and down the parking lot aisles with sparklers. So it was really only sad for me, since I intended to watch the fireworks, then head in to Target for some groceries. This year, I felt compelled to join in the thousands at the park if for no other reason than I didn’t want to make a tradition of sitting on the hood of my car in the Target parking lot then ambling in to pick up a six pack and some toothpaste. That doesn’t seem right.
The display started with a lone warning shell–one of those white explosions that does nothing other than rattle nerves. You could feel it in your stomach. It was with that shot that a post-toddler/pre-junior girl behind me began to shriek as if undergoing a live, anesthetic-free amputation. She didn’t stop. The screaming evolved over the course of the show from a nerve-jangling, “I’m scared and want to go hooooooooooooome!” to a shell-shocked, holding herself “Ugghhhhh ughhhhhh ughhhhh.” Her mother pleaded for her to calm herself down by shrewdly begging, “Please calm down, please calm down.” Then the girl’s grandmother came to the rescue, and tried a different tack. “You need to try to calm down. You need to try to calm down.” She wouldn’t be calmed.
Meanwhile, in the skies: I remembered how little I truly enjoy fireworks displays. But I was close enough to feel fragments of spent charges hit me in the face, so I figured if you’re going to be there, you may as well be up-close/personal. I could hear music that was allegedly “synched” to the fireworks (or vice-versa), though neither rhythm nor boom matched up in any discernible fashion. I found this to be really frustrating. Especially when the opening drums–a clear, unmistakable beat ripe for explosive synching–of “Born in the U.S.A.” came on, and a weak cheer rose up from my area. There was fist pumping when the Boss sang the ironic/anthemic chorus, though no one sang along to the rest of the song–a scathing indictment of our country’s handling of Vietnam vets. (Even the video paints a bleak picture.) Still, fist pumping/head bobbing.
“I. Just. Want. To. Goooooooo hoooooooommmmeeee!”
I felt badly for her. I hated fireworks–and loud noises, in general–as a kid. I still remember being in Williamsburg when I was three or four and sprinting for cover behind a colonial-themed building and covering Ye Olde ears while people in wigs re-enacted something or other with cannons and muskets.
The display progressed toward what inevitably was supposed to be the pre-climax. A flurry here, a high-shot there. But as it built up force, there was a final shot–a weak loner of a blue & white disc (not even one of those giant umbrella, Disney castle-grade ones) exploded and there was silence. Even the poor, screaming girl stopped, as if surprised/unprepared for it to be over. A tentative clap rippled throughout the crowd, and people shrugged their shoulders. I had direct view of the ridge upon which the fireworks were being shot. The other side of the ridge glowed orange, and I could see the tips of flames and a few people running around behind it. So I’m pretty sure a small (and hopefully contained) fire broke out, which wasn’t surprising either, since most of the other surrounding suburbs cancelled their displays due to the extreme heat/dryness. That was probably smart of them. The music still played–God Bless America. I hope they put out that fire.