(This is part of the weekly Slice of Life writing at Two Writing Teachers)
The other night, our local park held its second annual Fireworks Event for Independence Day (a little early, I know). My wife and I, and our youngest son, set up chairs at local golf course so we could watch the action in the skies while still avoiding the crowds after the event. It was a beautiful night, and the fireworks were spectacular to watch. Just wonderful. We even forgot the bugs that were pouncing on us as we waited for the pyrotechnics to begin.
I was reminded, though, of childhood, when I was living in an apartment complex where every Fourth of July would bring disparate families together, and many adults would have horded up collections of fireworks from vacation visits to New Hampshire and places down south. It would be a sort of contest between the two main wings of the apartment buildings — who could have the more spectacular displays that night? As kids, it didn’t matter who won that sort of contest — we were all winners. But what the other night brought back to me was how, the day after the fireworks at our apartment building, us kids would all get up wicked early in the morning and have our own contest: who could find the most spent fireworks. We’d scuttle around on wet grass, gathering and gathering, and then showing off what we found, even trading like baseball cards.
I imagine our parents didn’t mind. We were doing some sort of unofficial clean up duty of the neighborhood. But I still remember the lingering smell on my fingertips of old firecrackers and roman candles, and even a few unexploded ones how dead from the dampness of the night. Sometimes, we’d let them dry out, spin the paper off them, and then light the powder left behind. All out of eyeshot and earshot of the adults, of course.
This memory had me wondering about the fireworks we watched from the distance. Who cleans up the spent fireworks at the park? Is there a horde of kids coming out of the mist of dawn to gather them up? Somehow, I doubt it. It just seems like yet another childhood tradition fallen by the wayside as we “protect” our kids. Even me. It didn’t occur to me to get my sons up bright and early that next morning and scour the fields for old fireworks. I’m not even sure they would go.
Peace (in the memory),