The time of year is upon us. It’s the time we come together to risk life and limb as we attempt to wow onlookers with the prettiest and loudest explosions money can buy.
I, of course, am talking about fireworks and the Fourth of July — Independence Day.
It’s one of my more favorite holidays and if it weren’t for the need for a place to live, I would throw caution to the wind, spend a good chunk of my annual income, and perform one hell of a fireworks show. Alas, the adult in me knows better.
Of course, my love for fireworks stems from the very first time I was allowed to light off fireworks without adult supervision. I’ll paint you a picture.
It’s July 4th. I was with a buddy of mine at a dinner party that neither he nor I were very much interested in being there, and our host picked up on that.
We weren’t outwardly expressive about our boredom, but our host — a former Time magazine correspondent — understood a need for excitement in a person’s life.
He called us over to a closet he was rifling through. We didn’t know what he was digging for, but what he pulled out of that closet had Daniel and me pretty excited.
They were fireworks and not your small rinky-dink sparklers or fountain cones either. In a box, in front of us, were the 96-shell mortars that shot up high in the air, created big explosions and amazing lightshows.
Now I realize that these are pretty standard but for two 14-year-old boys, these were the most epic fireworks we could get our hands on.
With a wink, he told us, that if asked, he was not the supplier of such “contraband.” He gave us a barbecue light and told us to be safe.
Daniel and I looked at each other, then at the box, then at each other, and finally, we ran off to the yard.
As there was still a fair amount of light out — being summer and all — we spent our time lighting off whistling rockets, and small M-60 explosives, killing time before our finale.
Finally, the time came, and we regaled the adults who were talking and laughing on the deck with our light show.
We were having a great time and were putting on the best show, without even a hiccup, or so we thought.
We set up two 96-shell mortars next to each other ready for our finale. We lit the fuses and we ran back to what we thought was a safe distance. We waited in silence until finally the shells started to fire off in unison.
Daniel and I made small talk waiting for the shells to finish firing, and he asked something I really wished he hadn’t.
“Wouldn’t it suck if those things tipped over?”
I slowly turned to look at him with both equal parts contempt and shock that he would ask such a thing. Why would he tempt fate with such a question? Why would he proverbially jinx what at this point in the evening was a flawless firework show?
Well, fate listened because half way through the finale, the mortars stopped firing. We stood there in silence trying to figure out if the whole thing had fired, or if we should go investigate.
The answer to those questions were answered for us as the fireworks, that instead of firing up, at this point were now firing horizontally — in our direction.
Daniel and I scrambled, diving out of the way, rolling behind whatever cover we could find.
Daniel and I made eye contact, only to break it a moment later as we ran off screaming from the grass fire that had started, I couldn’t help but think that this was his fault.
Our host — along with a few other adults — raced to get a garden hose to douse the flames, moving faster than I thought humanly possibly, maybe, as a result of covering war-torn countries in a post-Soviet era, but regardless, he had the grass fire out in moments.
As the moments of turmoil subsided and we moved to clean up our mess, I socked Daniel in the arm, harping on him for tempting the gods with silly questions.
He and I got a good laugh out of the situation later that evening, and despite nearly setting an entire field on fire, our firework show was a success. Mostly.
The moral of the story, I suppose, is my love of fireworks started from a near mishap.
If it weren’t for the fast reflexes of our host, and a handy garden hose nearby, we would have had a large fire on our hands, and a possible story on the 10 o’clock news.
I think one of the greatest joys a kid can have is lighting off fireworks. However, doing so with on-hand adult supervision and an immediate water source nearby is a must.
This wasn’t the first time my buddy Daniel and I caused some sort of dilemma with our shenanigans — another time we released a military grade smoke flare in his backyard that caused fire, EMS and police to swarm the block thinking that this was a terrorist plot in the making and on Christmas, mind you — but it’s definitely one of the most memorable.
As you and your family “light’em up” on the Fourth, remember to have a Happy Independence Day.
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