What really scares us?
For most, it’s certainly not fireworks. They are beautiful starbursts of color in the night, shared with family and friends. They are part of celebrations and holidays and often followed by a day of rest and fellowship…maybe even new love.
I have many different memories of them, with a variety of people, that include jumping into the neighbors station wagon to see them at the local drive-in, my dad fighting his way on and off base to finally allow us to see from less than 5 miles away, making well-intended empty promises to boyfriends, sitting on the tracks in the woods with my husband, taking our babies in carriages, watching the wonder in our little girls eyes and taking those same girls, now teenagers, to the local bazaar that is held while awaiting the 1812 Overture.
The last few years, this is what they like best. We define a spot for our blankets and cooler and they can walk the grounds with their friends and other unexpected locals. While they are past asking for money at every ice cream truck (sadly), they do still like snacks, blankets and sitting with the family once the night sky appears.
This year we took two of their girlfriends with us. We did all of this but with less walking and more laughter and selfies. The band finished playing and the “ooohs and aaahs” started. Everyone had an opinion on the best colors, I whistled for the ones I liked and everyone seemed to have their favorites.
The new crowd pleaser seemed like it was going to be what I initially called the ‘danglers’. They were shot off as one but soon separated into exploding feathers that floated down and lingered in the sky as they slowly disappeared. Brilliant bursts of gold art. Each array of these seemed to get closer to our heart.
Then my youngest noticed they were too close. One dangled so near, low and brilliant that it was still lit when it streamed toward the roof of the stroller in front of us. Despite the roar of the large crowd, those around us were suddenly quiet as the carriage and parents quickly turned tail to remove themselves from the viewing field. As we turned to watch them go, we saw an ember next to the lawn chair of the woman behind us. She stomped it out and didn’t seem too concerned, so we all turned back to watch the rest of the show.
I know that’s when I started to worry that there was a finale. If these danglers continued to stay so low, or worse, get even lower, we may be in trouble. The next time they appeared they were too close to the trees and I looked around to make sure the fire trucks were on sight. The fireworks were going so fast now, there was smoke everywhere. When I didn’t know if it was the aftermath of the colorful display or from the smoldering woods nearby, I told all the girls where to run if there was commotion. “Don’t run with the crowd out the way we came. Run that way towards the other open field and the river.”
I was now out of my chair and huddled behind them all with my arms spread like a mother bird. I wondered why I didn’t feel the need to flee like the younger parents had? Was I protecting them less because they could take care of themselves? That was absurd but I was telling myself I could lie on top of them all, if the display got out of hand. If it did, we’d be sure to stay away from all the food trucks with the propane tanks.
Explosions?! What were we still doing here with our children?! That’s when the finale began, we all started screaming and the danglers did get too low in the crowd. My heart rate exploded and between us all we were pointing to where the danglers were landing all around us. People remained in their spots and on their chairs but only to keep track of the volume of light around us. We grabbed one another and laughed and cried at the same time. That is fear.
It was the first time I didn’t hear clapping or whistling after a fireworks display. It was the first time the crowd didn’t linger hoping for another finale. It was the first time I’d put the kids in danger. While it was a celebratory memory, it wasn’t a positive experience. The thought of flames, explosions and crowd mayhem could have been a reality.
So, what really scares me? Fire works.