FIREWORKS…

Tonight, I was here at home not feeling the greatest, my roommate was still asleep… and it rained ALL DAY in Houston… so I didn’t go out to watch any fireworks. Not wanting to offer my body up as a mosquito feast, I had pretty much decided earlier today during the monsoon to forego the fireworks and stay home. It got to be 9 p.m. and I heard several “booms,” (of the legal variety of fireworks — for it is illegal to shoot off the kind of fireworks you buy along the roadside within the city limits) and they sounded fairly close. The booms persisted, and finally, at 9:15 I stepped outside to see if I could see where they were coming from. (I’m watching some fireworks on TV now… with the Boston Pops Orchestra, I think).

A four year old and her mother (whose Jamaican/island accent I just loved), all the while swatting mosquitoes, pointed them out for me. I could see 3/4 of the full fireworks above the rooftops of the condo complex just north of my apartment (also between the trees). I enjoyed about ten minutes worth of fireworks, and then they ceased. I could hear others to the south of me, but I couldn’t see them, and the four year old and her mother had retreated to their apartment and I didn’t have a bra or shoes on and decided I’d better head inside myself. I’ve counted three mosquito bites so far.

Fireworks displays in Houston are very impressive. Fireworks are usually shot off at several places in town. Two years ago, Jene’ and I drove around and saw four separate displays without ever leaving the mosquito-free air-conditioned van we had borrowed from a friend. (Last year, we were both sick — and tired). Fireworks also kick off the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving. Those fireworks are set to Christmas music and it’s usually cool enough outside to actually have to wear a jacket so it almost feels like Christmas (though one year we wore shorts). Now, I’m usually in West Texas for Thanksgiving and the 10 nieces and nephews Jene’ has usually are enough fireworks themselves and I don’t miss seeing fireworks at Thanksgiving anymore.

I love fireworks, though, and when I don’t get to see them at some point during the year, I feel very sad. I guess it’s because I have so many good memories tied up in fireworks. When I was a kid, the Salamonie Festival (Warren, IN) ran during the weekend of July 4th, and it still does. My best friends would get to go to the festival with me, and we’d join my cousins and we’d take our bikes with us and ride all day, taking breaks to swim in my cousins’ pond and cool off, then back into “town” (which was just a few blocks) to meet the parental units and get more cash, check in, and then we’d split to go eat dinner BY OURSELVES. Yes, those were good times…times when you could let your kids run wild in the streets of small town America and not worry.

Later, in junior high, we’d go to Tricia’s house to take a break, and also to my cousins to swim in the pond. We’d still ride bikes, and had front row seats at the parade when we weren’t in it (it’s called a PURDUE float, people, and when your aunt and uncle have a van that has a horn that plays the PURDUE fight song, you decorate it, and you walk beside it in your PURDUE t-shirts and all of a sudden, you’re in a parade with a float with an official number and everything). We’d go to the waterball fights, the bed races, the canoe races, and the variety show (which now features a great number of my cousins and their children these days). Ultimately, however, we’d all end up at the ballpark on the 4th to watch fireworks.

Granted… Warren fireworks were not as impressive as some displays I’ve seen since I’ve moved to Houston, but the amount of fireworks you saw in Warren was in direct proportion to how many people donated some money to buy them… and that is still probably the case today (and they were shot off by volunteer firemen). I can’t tell you, though, how often I am watching fireworks in other parts of the world, and I am transported back to Warren and the fireworks at the ballpark. I’d name everybody I enjoyed that experience with but I’m sure I’ll forget someone (and if you’re that someone, please comment and I’ll add you…), but my friends Tina and Tricia were there, along with Kristy, Brandon, Andy, Joe, and as many other people from school we could round up. I usually had custody of my little brother, Danny, too (3 1/2 years younger). We’d put our blankets out on the grass by the ball diamond, then we’d take turns visiting the concession stand and get the usual ballpark fare… orange push-ups, cokes, popcorn, lollies (sweetarts on a stick), and Bazooka bubble gum. Then, as it would get dark, we’d lay back and stare at the sky until the fireworks were over.

My friends were my sanctuary, and sometimes, my salvation, so meeting up with so many of them in the middle of summer break was more important than you can imagine. I could relax, I felt safe, and I’d get enough of an injection of hope that I could make it until school started again. I always laughed with this group of maniacs, and the fireworks “Ooh…ahh… oh!” contests were some of my favorite times. (Also, sharing a blanket with so many guys…one of whom I had a crush on… without my parents being anywhere too close to where I was… well, though nothing ever happened there, it was still good for the soul…lol). But I digress…

I did defect a couple of times (in high school and after college) to the Huntington fireworks 11 miles up highway 5, but they just didn’t have the same atmosphere. I don’t know when I’ll ever get back to Warren on July 4th, but it’s a time and place that holds a special place in my heart. I will always think of that time in my life and my friends whenever I see fireworks.

Yes, those were great, great times. Happy fourth everybody!

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