I love the Fourth of July. Not because of the fireworks, or the barbecues, or because one of my good friends has a birthday then. Certainly not because of the crowds and traffic and drunk people. Not even because I’m a true patriot glorying in American independence. But all of these things are unquestionably part of the holiday.
It has more to do with memory that I can’t escape. I can remember sitting and waiting in endless boredom for the world to grow dark enough. I can still see the afterimage of sparklers circling and spelling my name, and the occasional prick of a sparkle that comes too close to flesh. I can remember setting off fountains in the driveway, the short catch of my breath anticipating the first spark. I can remember blankets and food enough for an army spread to watch the explosions shot from the tallest deck of the highest skyscraper in Indianapolis. I can remember the shivering intensity of waiting for the next big bang, my nerves as thick with crackle as in a thunderstorm. I certainly can remember leaving early, before the crowds, looking back with longing at every next flash. For all these memories there must be a certain excitement surrounding the Fourth of July.
Last night I didn’t bring a camera to the rooftop barbecue I attended with friends. I knew it would be dark and crowded and full of faces I have countless good pictures of – why waste the effort? But at that moment of wonder when the fireworks started going off, I wanted to capture everything: The sense of joy and wonder and focus in everyone around me. The colors burned into your eyes by thousands of tiny explosions. The music of the Pops blaring as loudly as possible through a 1980s clock radio that had seen better days. The scent of grill and citronella. The sound of aimless voices singing along to patriotic songs they hear only once a year, trying to recall childhood words. The clapping and oohs for the ‘good’ ones.
The results are less than extraordinary:
Still, the feeling remains with me, and I am grateful enough for that.