You’re probably still hearing fireworks. It may be a ringing in your ear or overzealous neighbors blowing up the arsenal that didn’t get fully destroyed, but chances are – if past experience and my Facebook feed are to be believed – you aren’t completely clear of “the rocket’s red glare” as of yet.
I never played with firecrackers as a kid.
I mean I might have gotten my hands on some black snakes at a friend’s house one year, but those were quite a let-down, dissolving in seconds into a chalky mess resembling pencil eraser.
My main exposure to real firepower came at the end of minor league baseball games.
One weekend in middle school I went to a Triple-A game with my friend TJ and his dad – a used car salesman/part-time body builder and arm wrestler with a big personality. (NOTE: I got word a few days back while having already decided to mention this story that TJ’s little brother is on this week’s American Ninja Warrior episode and has been trained by their dad.) We left the game in closing moments to beat the rush and when we first entered the parking lot, I thought TJ’s dad was just putting on a show. He started jumping and dodging. Turns out that these weren’t theatrics. Due to what must have been a miscalculation, firework shells from the post-game celebration were landing on cars in the parking lot. I just remember a glowing green sky, followed by the distinct popping noise made by small, propelled metal fragments slapping automobile hoods like some kind of post-apocalyptic hailstorm.
I got a little more personal experience with festive explosions once in college, prone to be around guys in my age group who couldn’t pass on a publicly-condoned summertime holiday experimentation with things that go boom. And yes – there was even an encounter with police when a few roommates and I thought it would be harmless to fire some bottle rockets in late July in our residential neighborhood.
Now as a parent, I am more likely to see all the things that can go wrong when you start lighting things on fire. My wife is fearless – climbing a roof with my best friend a few years ago to engage in their own brightly-colored light show while I contemplated if I felt safe on the ladder leaning up against the house – but I am easily spooked by the horror stories. Once, a well-meaning lady wrote a diatribe about a kid she knew who got his face melted on the 4th of July after we posted a picture of my early elementary daughter holding a blazing sparkler.
So this week we neglected to buy any of our own firepower and returned to my childhood touchpoint: the minor league ballpark.
The kids were full of hot dogs and cotton candy; the game ran long. Eyelids were drooping and enthusiasm waning. But FINALLY, the last pitch was thrown and the lights in the stadium went down.
There is a magic in the color and the lights. There is nostalgia in the treble-heavy output of the stadium sound system. Neil Diamond and Lee Greenwood over-enunciating names of our country brings with it a sense that for just a moment we might all agree on something.
I leaned over to my wife in the multi-color glow and whispered a question:
“Do you find it hard to be patriotic anymore?” I asked.
She didn’t look at me and she didn’t hesitate.
“I still love our country,” she said, as self-assured as she always is about everything.
I smiled. She is fearless. And in this case, I will follow her on to the roof.
Happy Independence Day.