Fireworks are booming and hissing above our usually quiet neighborhood. My dog, Tango, is shaking, shuddering, and panting in fear. Perhaps he imagines himself in the middle of a battlefield. The City firework display begins soon a few blocks away, which will light up the sky and send more shock waves of sound through the air. Clearly Tango will need some comfort and reassurance, so we curl up in bed. He feels safe wedged tightly between me and the wall. I nudge the comforter near him for extra protection. I slay several Sudoku puzzles on my Kindle as fireworks explode across our small town.
I wonder, have I ever enjoyed a Fourth of July festivity? I remember summers with my Dad on the beach. We got to hold sparklers and he lit a few firecrackers. People further down the beach had bottle rockets and big fireworks that I liked better. As a young adult I attended fireworks displays with friends, which was more of a social event than a patriotic one. Now a senior citizen by IHOP standards (55+), I don’t feel much enthusiasm for getting out into the crowds to watch and hear the celebration of a war that none of us remember. Sure, our independence from England is significant, but it pales in light of the way we wiped out the Native Americans and are now wiping out our environment. What exactly are we proclaiming freedom from, these days? What freedoms have we lost? Where are the values that fed the early Americans who fought the War for Independence?
As my mind roams through Fourth of July memories, I find a few that are enjoyable. I smile at those years when my son was growing up and we went to fireworks displays. When he was a baby the sounds frightened him like they frighten Tango now. I cuddle him tight like I cuddle Tango now. But as my son grows we looked forward to fireworks. Taking him each year gave the occasion purpose. After all, it’s a parent’s duty to take their children to such celebrations, to pass on the American traditions even when you may feel lukewarm about them. Perhaps our teens are right when they call us hypocrites.
My best fireworks memory wasn’t even on the Fourth of July or in this country. My son and I were camping over spring break, along the Baja coast. He is maybe 10 years old then. We see fireworks in a shop display and I can hardly say no to my son’s pleading eyes. Still, I had never set off fireworks, unless you count sparklers, and I am a fearful. I do not know it at the time, but I am ready to take new risks in my life, to lighten up and have some fun.
Maybe my son is, too So, I give into the big, begging eyes and we buy piles of bottle rockets, some larger rockets, and firecrackers.That night, we giggled and laughed as we set the fireworks zooming out over the beach and across the waves. I would light the bottle rockets and then try to run back to our safe viewing location, only to fall over and over in the sand because I am clumsy. We laugh into the night finding an independence of another kind, one more personal and real.