Since I was a child, I was priveleged to grow up in a state where fireworks are legal. Say what you like about Alabama, but any place that allows you to blow up pretty things is OK by me. Loud things are OK too, but pretty things are better.
My dad would take me to the fireworks stand for New Year’s and the Fourth of July to pick out fireworks. My best friend would come with me and we would agonize over the best choices in our financial range. Finally we would carry our purchases to the person at the checkout, and we would leave with our brown paper bags of beautiful bright paper fireworks. Then we would eagerly await the dark.
My dad always allowed us to light our purchases, but he was safety conscious, and much to my humiliation, he would make us wear safety shop goggles to protect our eyes. In hindsight, that was probably a really good idea. Our favorites were the Jumping Jacks, which whirled wildly and whistled when we lit them. They changed colors from green to red. There was a lake down the hill from us, and we would save our extras and light them and throw them high from the dock. When they hit the water they stayed lit for a moment and whistled and hissed. They still make Jumping Jacks but they aren’t nearly as brilliant or as big as I remember them. They are still fun for kids.
When my younger cousins came to visit from out of state, I would take them to the fireworks stand and buy them about twenty bucks worth of fireworks, which in those days was quite a bit. I was older then, college probably, and it was fun to see their looks of awe as the fireworks were lit. They don’t have fireworks in Nebraska. We would buy whistling tanks and small tubes that emitted showers of beautiful sparks and big loud noises.
Also when I was in college, I dated a guy who had a convertible. I was following him up the road in my car when suddenly something hit my car and exploded. He was lighting fireworks and tossing them out of his car at me. It was all fun and games until one of them landed in the median, and the tinder-dry grass went up in flames. The entire median was on fire. We fleed the scene of his crime and watched from a distance as the firemen came and put it out. I think he was a bit cowed by the magnitude of what he had done.
Fast forward to medical school, and I was doing a year’s fellowship at the NIMH in Bethesda, at the Howard Hughes Institute. New Year’s was coming and I made a little stop on my way back from Alabama. Now, fireworks were strictly illegal in pretty much all of the Northeast, and I might have been in a good bit of trouble if I had been pulled over and all those fireworks were found in my trunk. I had bought about a hundred dollars worth. My friends and I had planned a trip to celebrate New Years in New York City, and those fireworks were going with us. I divided them with my best friend at the time, so he would have some in case we got split up. We did get split up, and he wound up meeting his future wife at a party. He wooed her with fireworks, took her out to the banks of the Hudson and they lit up the illegal fireworks which were beautiful over the water. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and our friends were lighting ours. Fortunately none of us were arrested.
The next time the fireworks became a big deal was when I got married. My husband grew up along the Easterrn Seaboard, where fireworks are illegal also. When we moved back to Alabama, I took him to a fireworks stand to buy fireworks. He was so excited, he bought a couple hundred dollars worth, including those big professional mortars that make a big boom and sparkle way up into the sky. His little pyromaniac heart was filled with glee. I let him light them all, and he took great delight in lighting the big mortar balls, dropping them into their tubes and scampering away, shouting “Fire in the hole!” each time. He never tired of it. We set them off every year until we had a baby.
Said baby put a little damper on the fireworks situation. She was TERRIFIED of them. We had to put them on hold a few years because we had taught her to fear fire and she thought Dada was going to set fire to himelf. She might have been right. So we attended some fireworks shows the neighbors were putting on, and sat a good ways away so she wouldn’t be afraid. One neighbor in particular was obsessed with power and noise. Every year, he had illegal “fireworks” made out of partial sticks of dynamite. They didn’t do anything pretty at all, but they made a truly awe inspiring BOOM that echoed and richoceted off the surrounding homes. Legend has it that one year, an old alcoholic crank who lived in one of the nearby houses came out and literally throttled Dynamite Guy, chokiing him with his hands around his neck because the noise made him so angry. We probably should have been wearing earplugs.
We eventually were able to return to lighting our own fireworks. Our daughter’s fears lessened, and Dynamite Guy, thankfully, moved to another neighborhood. Lucky neighbors. The last couple of years she has been able to hang out with us as hubby set his mortars off. Lousy weather kept us from lighting them this New Years, but there’s always the Fourth of July!