Every year, no matter where I am, I watch a fireworks show on the Fourth of July. This year, as I made the trip to my mom’s in Indianapolis, I thought about how this would be the first year without going to see an organized fireworks show.
You see, my sister said we would just hang around mom’s and watch the fireworks set off around her neighborhood.
After the week I’d had, and bone-tired as I was, I didn’t argue.
And you know what? I ended up seeing the most spectacular display of fireworks I had ever seen.
Within the first few minutes, it was clear to me that either Indiana’s laws on fireworks are vastly different than Ohio’s, or the state is just full of pyromaniacs.
But, I did check on those laws the next day and Indiana’s laws allow citizens to purchase, and use, actual fireworks, not just sparklers, smoke bombs, and the like.
My sister said she was behind someone at the fireworks store making a large purchase. Their total, she said, was more than $1,100.
Just so you know, I spent $8 at the Dollar General on my Fourth of July display, which was smoke bombs and those popper thingys that shoot out confetti.
On Friday, before the sun had even sunk below the horizon, the booming started. We all stood in my mom’s front yard which sits on a corner, giving us a wide-open view of the surrounding skies.
From every direction, balls of fire were launched into the sky, the colors exploding soon after.
I darted all across my mom’s front yard, going here and going there, to see over that way and back again toward another direction, my face pointing toward the heavens like an awestruck child so I didn’t miss anything.
The backyard of a home on the next block, which we could see right into from Mom’s front yard, was alive with activity.
Large booms signaled the launch of a colorful burst above our heads. Fiery geysers of colors and white light were alive from their backyard, the following plumes of smoke a testament to the chemistry just spent on a night of celebration.
Everywhere we turned, colors exploded and every crevice of the night was filled with booms, shots, and cracks of piercing sound.
And amid all the colorful chaos, the incongruous serenity of dozens of Chinese lanterns floating into the night, carried by invisible winds.
Those lanterns came at different intervals and at different times. At one point, several floated in a line just above the fading colors of sunset, and I thought they looked like an arrangement of war planes, off to perform some unknown mission.
The whole night, I was thinking about war.
After all, the Fourth of July is about celebrating our nation’s independence, and that independence was not attained by the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but was only truly gained after much fighting.
“And the rockets’ red glare, the bomb’s bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” goes just some of the words of our national anthem.
On Friday night, the smoke and stink of pyrotechnics heavy in the summer air, I was thinking about those bombs, the cannon fire and the gunfire and wondering if what I was hearing sounded even remotely similar to war.
It was fitting really, to be able to so clearly draw those lines to what I was seeing and hearing to why we were celebrating in the first place.
And later in the night, after the majority of the festivities had died down, there would be a stray crack like what I imagine gunfire to resemble, its sharp-edged sound ricocheting off of the surrounding houses.
And even though I knew this was innocent fun in a celebratory manner, my thoughts couldn’t help but drift back to the thoughts of why we were all doing what we were doing in the first place.
I thought of wooded areas more than 200 years ago, each tree and bit of ground bearing marks of the fight of a fledgling country struggling to break free from its forebearer and stand on its own two feet.
There were years of bloodshed and fighting. There was fear. There was uncertainty. There was death.
But, I am thankful that we have the Fourth of July to celebrate. I am thankful that the United States of America came to be. I am thankful that those that came before us stuck to their guns and won this nation’s independence. And I am thankful for every person that has come along since then, fighting the wars that have been fought and some of them fighting still, to defend the freedoms that I have never been without.
Angela Shepherd can be reached at 937-402-2572 or on Twitter @ashepherdHTG.