There won’t be fireworks in Lower Providence Township tonight. That makes me kind of sad. Though, as most residents were well aware, it wasn’t on the usual night anyhow. It would have felt fairly awkward celebrating the birth of our nation a full 24 hours early anyways.
As one reader put it, perhaps it was the Forefathers’ way of saying we were doing it all wrong anyhow. And, I’m not sure what about Chinese-crafted explosives says about the holiday in the first place.
Well, whoever decided it or thought that’d be a great way to celebrate was a genius in my book. I love fireworks.
Everyone has his or her favorites. Personally, and I know I get this from my dad and his love for pyrotechnics, but I like the chest-rattling booms. It reminds me how small I really am and that very powerful, beautiful things can move me.
But what I really love about fireworks is the pause in time. Everyone quiets down. It is dark. It is peaceful, and then it begins. Silence is broken with a twirling zip through the air, then a booming explosion, and then the beautiful aftermath. Much like songs for me, fireworks displays seem to be particularly memorable in my old and otherwise scattered mind.
I can think back many, many years. Each and every display I’ve seen are almost filed away in my head, as if I could pull out an over-stuffed manila folder and review the contents. I remember fireworks. I remember where I was, who I was with, what I was doing, where we were sitting … something about their magic sort of holds the memory in place for me, like a photograph.
I remember being a kid, standing in a baseball field at the Sheffield Fireman’s Fair (now renamed the Johnny Appleseed Festival in my hometown). The fair was about the biggest thing to happen all year long in our quiet town, and I could not wait until it was time to walk down. We’d eat sticky, stretchy taffy from the stand hosted by Fowler’s. Peanut butter was the best. We’d pig out on firemen French fries, over-saturated in way too much vinegar, but that’s what made them awesome. Gary Lane would sporadically yell “Another $100 winner in the instant bingo.” And the best part was always the fireworks.
I remember one of the summers; my cousin got a piece of the falling ash in her eye. It was a big production as they escorted her out, and to this day I’m afraid to sit as close as we were, just in case the same would happen to me.
I remember the first few years I lived in the city. We’d find a place to avoid the crowds and dig in. The best years, we lived in apartments or houses with rooftop decks. From our Fairmount house, we had perfect seats for the Philadelphia Freedom Festival in the Art Museum district. We’d skip those “Rocky Steps” and packed parkway and host a party at our own place.
I remember the year it rained and we waited almost four hours to watch the show. I remember, in lieu of a rooftop deck, we used our roof, hoisting our friends and fellow partygoers onto the flat top. I remember everyone that was there, my old work friends. We had such a blast, and the scrapes from climbing onto our roof were totally worth it.
I remember taking my kids to Disney for the first time. I remember clutching my son, as he rode atop my shoulders. I remember seeing the magic in their eyes as Tinkerbelle flew up to the top of Cinderella’s castle to start the show. As popular Disney tunes swelled, I cried up. I won’t lie. It was almost midnight, and my tiny tots, complete in Mickey Mouse Club ears, scripted with their names in black, cursive writing, had taken in the day like troopers. Throughout the Disney Death March, as I called it, they were smiling and singing and having the time of their lives, and in the end, watching them love it so much was enough for this momma. The firework finale was just the icing on the cake.
I remember when we moved out of the city, into Lower Providence. We’d sit in the same place each year, on the paved space behind the pavilion, just up from the tennis courts. When they were little, we’d each hold a kid in each lap. My husband clutched my daughter and I my son. They loved to watch but hated the noise, so we’d sit, cross-legged, with a hand on each ear, squeezing them tight to their tiny heads. In retrospect, I have no clue why we didn’t just try earplugs, but they liked it this way. We spent many a year pressing their ears closed, allowing them to feel safe in our laps.
One year we got invited to watch the local displays from the rooftop of the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. It’s too bad prisoners don’t have windows there, because it is maybe the most amazing spot in the county to watch. From one seat, you can get a full 360-degree view of shows all around you. It was maybe the most awesome display (well, many displays) I’ve ever been to.
That is, perhaps, except for my father’s own at-home displays. Sure, we started like other kids with growing “snakes” and sparklers. I still remember the black circles in outside of our garage door where my brother and I lit up snakes. They stained the walk for years. But, soon, our family’s fun with sparklers grew as my dad decided it’d be his new hobby to entertain the neighborhood with our own at-home displays, which may or may not be totally legal. Don’t worry about that. He has yet to catch himself or the house on fire. Standing on my own deck, for the anniversary of my granddad’s birthday, or New Year’s Eve, or July 4, or whenever in the hell he felt like it, I’ll always remember my dad’s homemade shows as the best.
Wherever I was, whenever it was, whomever I was with, it was worth it. It was amazing. It was just fireworks, but for me, it was a memory, frozen in time. I’m sad our fireworks were cancelled, and I hope they get rescheduled. Even if the celebration is far after our Independence Day, I still hope I get in a memory snapshot.