When my children were small, fireworks were the highlight of the Fourth of July weekend. We might have a picnic or watch a parade, but nothing could compare to the wonders of explosive colors in the night sky.
I guess there are some people who love fireworks no matter how old they are, whose Fourth of July celebration would not be complete without them. There are families who buy fireworks on vacations to those states where fireworks are legally sold and then set them off in their own backyards despite all the warnings about how unsafe that can be. What I mostly remember about those fireworks displays is the swarms of mosquitoes feeding on my skin, whether it was covered up or not. The itching for days that followed was a constant reminder to me that there was always a price to pay for the glory of one night.
One of my most memorable Fourth of July celebrations was when my oldest daughter lived in Virginia and we took the Metro into D.C. to watch the fireworks. The crowds were overwhelming. I remember sitting on a blanket watching in awe as the fireworks lit up the sky behind the Washington Monument and listening to the patriotic music blare from the speakers. That was the good stuff. The bad stuff came next. First there was a lot of beer-drinking which resulted in very long lines for the huge number of porta-potties set up on the grounds. I remember thinking that if only so many people weren’t drinking beer, maybe I would get the chance to go before pain set in. Then leaving the fireworks was a real challenge. Everyone headed for the Metro station. There were lines to get on the trains, and people were running and pushing and shoving as they tried to make each train. We waited forever to get on, hoping the four of us (my mom, husband, daughter, and I) would make it on the train together. We did not know at the time that it normally takes several hours for people to clear the National Mall area. It seems like it took us more than that to actually make it back to our hotel. Looking back on it, I think it was a worthwhile experience, but certainly just a once-in-a- lifetime one.
I no longer like to go to fireworks displays. The crowds, the noise, the bugs, and the traffic as everyone leaves at the same time are all deterrents to me now that I am older. My grandchildren are now the ones who love fireworks, although my youngest granddaughter at age two may not be enthralled by the thunderous noise. I will be watching the fireworks on television this year, enjoying the comforts of home while loving the music and the way it coordinates with the brilliant colors and sounds in the darkening sky.
My favorite part of the Fourth of July weekend is actually a result of living in a resort area. Saratoga Springs is a small city, but holidays are always packed with activities for both children and adults. The Fourth of July weekend features fun for children in Congress Park. a parade that includes dogs, a classic car show, and a BBQ and dessert festival throughout the downtown area where people can sample BBQ dishes and special desserts at $1.00 for each taste. It’s still fun for me even though I am a vegetarian with a gluten intolerance, so I don’t get to eat much. It’s the excitement that draws me in, the kids and dogs and noise. After all that, I can go home, curl up on the couch, and enjoy the fireworks from many cities throughout the country. After dark I can hear the sparklers and firecrackers on the lawns of my neighborhood and watch my Australian shepherd as he cowers under the bed. He does not find any joy in the Fourth of July.