Growing up in a state where fireworks were considered contraband, summertime yielded a mother-load of pyrotechnic wonders. We would sit on the beach and wait for night to fall on the fourth of July. The sun would set, casting beautiful purples and golds across the sky while the first of the brightest stars made their appearance. People talked excitedly as they settled down for the best view when suddenly a golden trail of light would rocket further and further into the sky and disappear moments before exploding into bursts of light and sound. The crowd would quiet and the show would commence. Dazzling colors bounced off of our unblinking eyes while we felt the detonations in our chests. Some were so loud you would swear the wind was pushed out of you, but we never moved and we never looked away because we didn’t want to miss any part of the grand finale.
As a kid, the end of the show always came too soon. I felt like I could sit all night, watching the sky painted with light like a modern art piece. As an adult, I am shocked at how long some fireworks shows are. Just when I think the show has reached its apex, another golden streak heads skyward to continue the show. Today, I realized that so many people can watch the same display of gunpowder and chemistry and have completely different expectations about it. Some think the show has gone long enough and head home early before it ends while some don;t know how to leave the park even after the smoke drifted away with the wind. Some are in awe of how magnificent the show is; while others have seen better and aren’t as impressed.
But one thing is for certain, no matter where you are in town, the fireworks are going to happen whether you are there or not. You might hear faint echoes of reports or see balls of light in the distance, arching into the air only to fade before returning to the ground. We are all at the show in some capacity and we are all affected in different ways. The key is to appreciate that it happens at all. Too long, too short, too loud, or too quiet; the fact that it happens at all is pretty astonishing.
I can remember one year, my father took me to see some fireworks and he quickly grew bored while I was having the time of my life. We left early that night and it was one of the most intense feelings of betrayal at that age. It was being taken from me far too soon and I cried and cried as we drove away. I turned around in my seat and I watched people watching fireworks and for a brief moment I wasn’t concerned with the pretty lights, I was jealous of the people. They weren’t having something taken away from them like I was. It didn’t mean as much to them as it did me, I thought. Looking back now, I realize that it doesn’t matter. We were all participating in the same event and some of us weren’t as engaged as others but we were all given the gift of being there and that it was up to us to enjoy it as much as possible.
That night, my father sent me to bed. He took my tears as evidence that I was tired and cranky and he was probably right. I don’t remember when I finally fell asleep but I do remember what I was doing; I was leaning on the windowsill, looking toward the horizon, hoping for one last golden streak into the sky.
For some of us, the show is too short and for others it feels far too long. Just remember who you decided to enjoy it with because while you may be glancing up with magic in your eyes, someone else is leaving before the grand finale and you will miss you chance to say goodbye.
In memory of Jeannine Gueydan.