I used to love big fireworks shows. Now I don't care. Last night I sat alone in the guest bedroom and waited after midnight for the first boom. It shook the house and startled the puppy from his sleep. I hugged him and crated him, and went back to the show that was well on it's way. There were no oohs and aahs, no squeals of delight, no patriotic music; Just me, a wall full of family photos, and a picture window dotted with colored splashes against the dusky Alaskan sky. And like the movie that isn't quite good enough to involve you in the story, the show became interesting for it's rhythm, and the exact two seconds it took for the sound to travel to me, and the puffs drifting in the breeze the opposite direction of the clouds behind them. I began to start predicting which types of shell would come next, and wandered to the realization that nothing had been new in the fireworks game for a very long time. Then I began to remember the fireworks of my childhood, where fuses were lit only by child-like adults, and the explosions were all huge, and names were written in sparkler glare. I remember losing power to the entire block when a tossed splattering stick crossed the feed wires. When I first beheld a commercial display, with it's shimmery old glory and layers of exploding beauty, I knew my life had purpose. But there is no Stanford School of Pyrotechnics in my old neighborhood, and the closest I could get was to become a professional firefighter where all of my coworkers were similarly obsessed. I had eighteen runs including a house fire one July 3rd while operating only a brush truck, and it was the pinnacle of the adrenaline driven portion of my life. But the best, the very best, fireworks came when my girls were little, and we watched the reflections in their wide eyes, and their wriggly forms, hands on cheeks, backlit by the flashes, jolted by the booms.
- One of those girls came to visit last week. We had a wonderful time, and now she's gone off again to grad school, and she's grown into a beautiful, fun-loving and independent woman that any father would be proud of, and I'm sitting here watching the celebration of the birth of our nation considering whether her generation will be able to restore any of the ideals dreamt of by the founders, then mortgaged by the people on my wall, me included. I'm wondering if one man's vote will mean again what it should, and if real leaders will emerge that can decide issues based on diverse individual judgement rather than a party line. I wonder if race will ever become irrelevant. I'm hoping that the earth isn't already too polluted to recover. And I'm wondering, watching fireworks, how many of those other people watching are still proud of this country, willing to make real sacrifices for what it stands for, what it means to the history and destiny of humankind. I'm missing that feeling in myself.
- Mostly though, I guess I'm just sliding off the highs of last week, sad that time is over, already missing my daughters, missing my youth again. Even fireworks don't fill that hole.