Fireworks at Any Age

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.


Song to a Child of a Soldier

Song to a Child of a Soldier

“Remember how I love you
When the summer raindrops fall
When autumn leaves drift downward
When the snowflakes cover all.

When the stars are twinkling nightly
When the sun is shining bright
When the dark and lonely shadows
Scare you in the middle of the night.

When the morning sun then rises
And fills the sky with blue
Remember that I’ll be there
I’ll be coming home to you.”

He sang the words so gently
As he held his daughter tight
And kissed her oh so softly
And then left her in the night.

And all the seasons followed
As he had said they would.
When he did not come back home to her
She knew he never could.

But she could hear him in the darkness
His farewell song so sweet
His loving words around her
As she sang herself to sleep.

© Barbara Flass 2011

She Was the One

She Was the One

She was the one at the party
Who was standing in the corner alone,
Drink untouched in her hand,
Watching others connect.

She was the one at the mall
Who was walking among families and couples,
Hearing their laughter and their quiet conversations,
Her eyes lowered to the floor.

She was the one in the restaurant
Who was listening to couples sharing their day
And the voices of children laughing and crying,
Silently eating with her partner across the table.

She was the one in her home
Who was wandering through empty rooms
Looking for a companion, longing to hear a voice,
Sharing a house but alone.

She was the one walking through life
Who was looking for the place
Where loneliness did not live.

© Barbara Flass 2011


The wonderful thing about love is that it is never limited to just one moment in our lives.  We love often, we love and lose and love again, we love many in a variety of ways.  Always, however, love sustains us through difficult times.  I wrote this poem for my youngest daughter during a difficult time in college, but today it seems appropriate for my oldest daughter who is grieving today over the loss of a dear pet.


If my love for you were a candle,
It would burn ’til the end of my life,
Softglowing beneath life’s tumult,
Peacefully calming your strife.

It would light up the corners of darkness
That haunt you during long nights
And warm you in life’s coldest moments
Melting your fears with its light.

If my love for you were a candle,
It’d defy the strongest of blows,
Flickering calm in the windstorm,
Dancing with hope as it glows.

For my love for you is so steady,
It calms the roughest of seas.
If my love for you were a candle,
It would burn for you endlessly.

© Barbara Flass 1994

Lessons My Father Taught Me

I have been without my father for twenty years now, but fathers have a way of finding a place in your heart and staying there forever.  This is the week that I would be looking for a special gift to show my love for my father on Father’s Day.  Instead, I’ll go to the cemetery and put some roses in the green cone at the side of his grave and weed the urn where I planted a geranium and marigolds Memorial Day weekend.  Every time I go, I talk to him, not out loud if I am with my mom, but silently, a conversation between my father and me.  I thought this week about lessons I learned from my father.  I didn’t learn these things all at once or only when I was young, and some of these lessons are hard to put into practice.  Still, these were my father’s beliefs, and my father was loving, totally selfless, with a great sense of humor and a love for my mother truly inspirational.  It would not be such a bad thing if I could be only a little bit like him.  Here is what he taught me:

1.  Give to others before yourself.
2.  Eat anything someone has cooked for you, even if just a bite.
3.  Cape Cod is a magical place for a yearly summer vacation.
4.  Nature’s beauty soothes the soul.
5.  Love lighthouses and covered bridges.
6.   Teach yourself something new if you can’t afford lessons from someone else.
7.  You can make anything out of wood.
8.  If you make a mistake when you build something, pretend you intended it to look like that.
9.  Discipline firmly, love softly.
10.  Love doesn’t always show itself in hugs and kisses.
11.  Love your spouse, your children, and your grandchildren above all else.
12.  Work hard.
13.  Love animals.
14.  Grow flowers and tend to them carefully.
15.  Learn to grow your own vegetables and give some away.
16.  Forgive others.

I miss my father every day of the year, not just on Father’s Day.  If  I could give my father a gift on this Father’s Day, I would worry less about the gift I give him and focus more on telling him about the gifts he has given to me.  I would focus on telling him how much I love him, now and forever.

What are my wildflowers trying to tell me?

When I was a child, lilies of the valley bloomed prolifically along the side of my grandmother’s house, tiny pure white bells hanging from enormous green leaves, a wild weed to some but loved by my grandmother and me.

Abundant iris and gladiolas bloomed in my other grandmother’s garden, tall spikes of purple and white iris and multi-colored gladiolas along the rock wall between our houses, blooms that became gifts to my childhood teachers, wrapped in wet paper towels and aluminum foil and carried proudly in my small hands to school.

Roses bloomed everywhere in my mother’s garden, pale and deep pinks, light yellows, brilliant reds, their fragrance wafting in the summer air and through the screen door of our kitchen.

I have no talent for growing and tending flowers.  Dead-heading, watering, feeding are all sporadic activities for me.  Yesterday just when I was awaiting the blooming of my climbing rose, I watched as a squirrel climbed the trellis and chomped off the lone bud as his breakfast.

My best success as a gardener requires little from me.  Years ago my daughter bought me one of those blankets of wildflowers.  I put it in the backyard, expecting little of it.  I neglect it every year, and every year it surprises me with its abundance.  There are white Shasta daisies and tall, spindly pink flowers, yellow buttercups, and blue chicory.  They bloom in succession, new colors every few weeks throughout the summer.  They spread from their origin into my neighbor’s yard, fortunately someone who loves them.  Nothing holds them back.  They ask nothing of me except my appreciation for their independence.  They seem to have a gentle strength, a confidence that they will be there for me year after year.

They compensate for the once beautiful pot of white-edged deep purple petunias on my front porch, now nothing but a pot of green leaves.  They make up for the hanging basket of deep pink impatiens, only temporarily in full bloom.  They give me hope as I watch the squirrel chomping on the lone bud of my climbing rose bush.

Nature teaches us lessons.  I like this one.  Wildness covets neglect.

What are they mourning about?

Every morning a pair of mourning doves visits the garden at the edge of the woods behind my house.  Since they are ground feeders, they like to pick at the birdseed that has been thrown onto the ground by both other birds and the squirrels that love the feeder attached to the tree.  In the spring I can hear their lament as they begin their courting time.  There is something soothing about the coo breaking into the silence of the cool early air.  After selecting a mate, the male is bound for life to the female.  He is the more striking in color of the two, as is common in the bird species.  Both are gray-brown with long tail feathers tipped in a little white and black.  The male has pale pink chest feathers and a bluish crown. She is plain gray-brown.  They have plump bodies and small heads.  They are both overwhelmingly beautiful, magical to watch.

Mourning doves build rather basic nests and take turns sitting on the eggs.  The male takes the day shift and the female takes the night shift.   They have set in motion their lifestyle of mating, claiming their territory, nesting, and raising their young.

As I watch them, I wonder about many things.  Are they happy with their choice of mate?  When the male is not on duty, is he off checking out the plumage of females other than his mate?  Is he tempted to stray?  Does the female sit there wondering if her mate will be late for his shift?   Does she get angry is he doesn’t sit just right when it is his time to protect the eggs?  Does she wonder if he loves her?  Is that mournful cry a sadness that they will spend their entire lives together having to accept each other’s flaws or is it a love song, a song of commitment, a song of acceptance and devotion?

I like the mourning doves.  I like that they mate for life.  I like their mournful cry.  I suspect there is much to learn from them.

Image: Liz Noffsinger /