Comfort in Controlled Explosions (Happy July 4th)

fireworks, fountain, July 4th, Independence Day

This entry has been brought to you today by the number 4 and the chemical reaction EXPLOSIONS.

Every July 2nd is a testament to our neighborhood’s laser-precision predictability. Countless anonymous pyrophiles can’t wait to unwrap the loot from their annual fireworks shopping sprees, light ’em up and let ’em fly, even if it’s two nights ahead of calendar schedule. Also with the punctuality of an atomic clock, friends and family in other neighborhoods and states rush to their input devices and register their noise-pollution complaints online for all the world to see and Like.

Their objections are reasonable. The booms and bangs are drowning out the TV. The baby’s trying to sleep. The ruckus makes their pets skittish. July 4th isn’t meant to be a week-long celebration. The pops sound like scary gunfire. Something something fire hazard. Durn fool kids gonna blow themselves up one of these days.

I sympathize, but I don’t cosign.

As jarring as those cracks, bursts, and Doppler-effect drones can be if I’m not steeled for them in advance, every consumer-grade fusillade is a series of reminders to me.

Childhood memories of our family’s weeklong out-of-town visits to elder relatives circa every July 4th. When lounging around or visiting senior citizens bored me numb, the sparkly scintillations of spinners and fountains were a welcome escape from the sort of ennui every grade-school kid loathes to be driven into by grownups.

Adulthood flashbacks to more recent Independence Days past, when my son and I would amuse ourselves by burning through a few dozen dollars’ worth of incendiary gewgaws while the womenfolk stood dozens of feet away and observed our amateur stage performance with intermittent interest. As his enthusiasm for the father/son tradition waned with age, my reluctance to soldier on as a one-man show waxed.

Circumstantial evidence that yes, our neighbors are willing to venture beyond their walls and security systems, to risk being spotted outdoors. The simple pleasures of sitting on the porch and engaging passersby are lost hobbies in our suburb. It’s nice to know the houses around us aren’t abandoned, and that a few sturdy folks are willing at least once per year to brave the natural environs outside their agoraphobic vinyl-siding bunkers.

Cognizant relief that those sounds are by and large not true gunfire, merely a lower-decibel simulation. The absence of subsequent police sirens is assurance enough for me.

Sincere gratitude that our homeland affords us freedom within sensible boundaries to carry on loudly in the name of pure patriotism and the joy of detonation, frequently in tandem and often in that order.

America refuses to age gracefully as its inhabitants seem to grow crankier and more quarrelsome with each new wave of stubborn descendants who insist on making their mark by upending every previous generation’s ways and means. Amid the daily disappointment of partisan fight scenes, the endless cheap shots exchanged between Us and Them, and the worrisome implausibility of all three hundred million of us ever agreeing on The Way Things Should Be, I relish the temporal oasis inspired by every July 4th, a short season when select individuals shove all that in a locker, bring out their catch-fire implements, and wield single-use gunpowder toys as an artistic expression that announces to anyone within earshot whether they want to listen or not, “Y’know this country that keeps giving us new reasons to fuss and hate every day? Sometimes we like being here.”

It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my appreciation. The annual amateur fireworks salvo is a sure sign I’m not.

Happy July Fourth, America. Thanks for keeping me in good company.

3 responses

  1. I hate to be a buzz-kill, but after visiting a major burn unit one July 5th, the sound of agonizing wails and the sight of blackened, peeling skin is burned in my brain. I’ll never enjoy fireworks again.

    Happy Independence Day, nonetheless.


    • I couldn’t begin to imagine the agony or the sight and wouldn’t dare trivialize it. We’re very close to a family that lost a sister/daughter tragically one July 4th — not in a fireworks-related way, but the ill timing overrode the entire “holiday” aspect for them for the next 20 years and counting.

      It’s sad to see such occasions robbed of any inherent joy, but I can’t deny it happens. I appreciate the sobering reminder, and the chance to add the proviso here that commonsense fire safety absolutely trumps all considerations today.


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