On July 5th, one gets asked “How was your 4th?” Until this year, I have always said, “Oh, nice, went to the lake for fireworks, had a bbq, how was yours?” This year, I had a different answer. It involved my eyes lighting up like saucers and my voice going from hum-drum to exciting…it was not just cake, but chocolate cake with cream and fruit…it was not your ordinary July 4th…. it was better, yet it was an ordinary July 4th. The most phenomenal thing was what lit up in the air – and it wasn’t the fireworks, yet it was the fireworks that made it happen….. My answer this year started with, “It was truly a BLAST!”…..
Marty (my 16 year old son) and I were going to wave off the fireworks this year. We had had a ‘fun’ hour or so early on looking for where we should watch the fireworks and have a ‘fast-food’ picnic, but never could find a spot that had enough parking. One town was completely full…not one parking spot in the whole town. While this was all my idea and Marty was humoring me in my efforts, at the same time, I really didn’t want to be with the rest of the crowds doing the expected obligatory “oohs and aahs”, but I didn’t know anything else…so, this was what I did. I was trying to do something fun for Marty… trying to cheer him up. He told me that I couldn’t make him laugh and I should stop trying. After conducting ‘the perfect spot’ search in vain, we both decided that we could see a pretty good showing right from our own driveway and we should just go home. I was disappointed as I had wanted to have a nice time with Marty and hopefully change the way he was feeling. When we got home, he decided we should go for a quick bike ride, and since he wanted to do that, I thought that might make him feel better (and it would be good to wear off the picnic drive-through food we had purchased while looking for the perfect lakeside fireworks/picnic dinner spot). Well, Marty had no worries, but I am constantly trading calories for bike rides (although, don’t you love the research they’re doing with dark chocolate? I’m convinced that the milk chocolate research is just around the corner.) Meanwhile, it’s biking etc. So the bike ride was a good thought. A quick one. Just to get the body moving. Should we bring a quilt….just in case we stop for fireworks. Nah…Marty took the lead.
He started around the block of our neighborhood, then told me he was going to show me a path he recently discovered. Fine. No problem. A beautiful summer night. Lots of fun in the air, and bbq smells….yummmmm! We biked and biked into areas I hadn’t been before. Finally, we both stopped at a corner and I inquired as to just where my tour guide was trying to lose me. He promised he wasn’t. It was getting closer to fireworks time and we were ready to head back. Well, I was. Then Marty told me about a really cool place he knew where we could watch the fireworks…not far from where we were. But, it would be dark, I said. “Lots of people, Mom,….we can walk our bikes back if there is a problem. Don’t worry!” Now, I’ve always thought that if I could keep up with my kids, I’d stay young, and this time I had absolutely no good excuse. So, Marty continued on and I followed dutifully. We were miles from home and it was getting dark. We went through 2 tunnels, around a lake, up the side of a highway overpass and joined up with a trail that wrapped around another small lake. A non-swimming lake. But a serene little fishing lake. A lake buried behind a down and out strip mall that has a popular ice cream place, a medical clinic and not much else. I could never understand why this strip mall wasn’t full of retail shops and restaurants with this beautiful lake behind it. I envision a small Italian restaurant overlooking the water with outdoor dining on the deck.
There are 6 or 7 vacant “space for lease” opportunities just waiting for entrepreneurial inventiveness. But tonight the vacancies were offset by the 1000’s of people perched on the surrounding hillside awaiting the local fireworks display. It would start at 10 pm and it was nearly that and nearly dark. Marty scooted down the hillside with the bike and I followed to a path below. The path below was rather dark, as it was at the base of the hill and covered with trees. I felt silly and not too safe riding my bike in near dark conditions on a trail that I didn’t know. But, Marty was rather comfortable, so I just followed. We came to a fork in the trail and at that same instant, with no notice, a bobcat (not the animal kind) came upon us almost running Marty over. He pushed himself into the side of the trail and the bobcat with 2 firefighters rushed past plunking a “Trail Closed” sign behind them. By now I had stopped and pulled over too. Marty was disappointed because he was going to take that path. I was becoming a bit disillusioned myself and not very comfy with the thought of a ride home in the dark. We continued on though, because now we just needed to get somewhere a bit lighter. We worked our way up to the hillside where the thousands of people gathered. A small child asked his mother loudly, “Mommy, why are they riding their bikes in the dark?” I answered back, “I’d like the answer to that too.” Marty was still fine with the ride, but still in a bit of a down mood, and I was not too happy about the darkness and getting back home. Marty wanted to make things right, so he said not to worry about getting back, there was another path that was lit, and there were so many people around that we should be fine. I decided he was right. We walked the bikes to an area where we could watch the fireworks with the thousands of people like every other year.
We stayed on top of the hillside for about 2 minutes before Marty pointed out a dock on the lake, lit by the lights of the new apartment complex above it. There were just a few people on the dock. “Want to go there”, Marty asked. “Why not?” So, off the hill we went, walking our bikes through the dimming path to the dock. When we arrived, there was no one there. It was totally peaceful. I imagined working at the strip mall and taking walks to this beautiful dock to have lunch. Such a find. No one seems to want to be here. Marty and I took off our helmets, hung them on the bikes and walked down to the dock. We sat down and faced the direction where the fireworks would go off. We got bit by mosquitoes and wrapped ourselves in our own jackets and arms and waited. It was about 10 minutes maybe, if that.
How can I say this in a way that you would experience it as we did? I don’t think there are words. We sat facing south and were jolted off the dock from an explosion from the north.KABOOM!!!!!! How can I express how loud this was? The sky lit up with color as I turned my body around, preparing to run and saw fireworks exploding above me and falling on top of Marty and me! We were running in an instant, and the fireworks tumbled all around us, into the lake, jolting the dock and scaring the you-know-what out of us! We ran like a grizzly was after us. We reached our bikes and grabbed our helmets. We put them on…for protection from the shards more than for riding…as it was too dark to ride now, the path lit only by the colors and light in the fireworks above. We stopped and realized we were both ok. And, then we started laughing, belly laughing and shrieking, and explicatives came out of our mouths. And, we knew at that instant that no one else knew how we were feeling, and we also knew that we each were certain how the other was feeling. Asfar as we could tell, we weren’t hit. Before we could catch our breath though, another one – bang, biggest thing I’ve ever seen…..This time, we were facing the dock from the bank across from where the firefighters were lighting the fireworks. They had apparently closed the other side of the trail, but didn’t close the side were on. We could see the two of them working when the fireworks lit up the sky. That is awfully close!!! We decided that with the protection of the helmets, and each other, we might stay put and watch from the path on the bank. I don’t think either of us would have let the other go back to the dock. And, as you might guess, before we could express any of our current thoughts, bang!!! Another blast hits the sky like a tornado without warning….color everywhere, spirals and circles and flares….towering and exploding, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….blasts, pop, popping without a break. Particles falling on us like snow…..small specs of fire-dust falling right into the lake. We actually did not get any spray from the fireworks, but as we sat there watching them rise, explode and fall….you would have guessed that we could have caught them in our hands.
On about the 3rd or 4th whirl, we relaxed a bit, certain we
would not be hit – well…kind of certain. We lay on our backs on the
path (the quilt would have been good!), keeping our helmets on…, and
witnessed the most powerful and beautiful display of fireworks I have
ever seen in my life. Our laughter and awe was unstoppable….as were the
fireworks, one after another. I am not certain at what point our fate
was sealed, as there were many points we could have turned back. I am
certain that my boy needed a laugh and I needed a good fireworks
experience, and somewhere in the movement of the earth and the impulses
we have those two things were brought together in a way that was more
powerful and more moving than the fireworks themselves. I am certain
that the others on the hillside above witnessing the same firework
display were not seeing the same display that Marty and I were seeing.
The amount of frustration that I experienced to get to this end, made
it that much sweeter, not just chocolate sweeter…but chocolate volcano
cake sweeter…the crème de la crème! To think that I
wanted to turn around. To think that Marty may not have had his spirits
lifted. I am certain that I will never forget how my son was willing to
go just a bit further, look harder and longer to find a good fireworks
for his mom... and, as a result he found that no matter how dark the
day, one can find laughter and joy. It is always “around the corner”.
Sometimes, you might have to go through some dark tunnels and winding
paths…but, it is there if you are willing to find it. That most
phenomenal thing…that lit up the air, was not the fireworks, but the
sound of my son’s laughter on a night that sparkled with joy. It was
indeed a BLAST!
July 18, 2008
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