It is amazing how one’s perspective alters as you age. What as a child may have been considered an adult’s irrational fear when looking through more mature eyes the fear is deemed extremely rational. As a boy, the 4th of July was one of the most exciting holidays of the year. The celebration included picnics, great food, water balloon tosses and most important……fireworks. Although my father enjoyed the events leading up to the fireworks, he was always extremely stressed when it came to fireworks.
I was raised in Los Angeles County where fireworks were illegal (which pleased my father), but we would often celebrate the 4th of July with our friends in Orange County where fireworks were legal and firework stands were plentiful. My father once stated that an anticipated brief moment of enjoyment could accidentally result in life-changing consequences (physical injuries, uncontrollable fires, loss of life and/or property, etc.). He delivered this message with passion and elegance. Although my brother and I listened intently, we then quickly rushed off to the firework stand to purchase as many fireworks as our saved up allowance would permit (discounting my father’s statements as simply him being grumpy).
Ironically, as I reflect on my youth now; my father actually had more to worry about than he ever knew. Boys often view themselves as invincible. I recall while in middle-school my brother, our best friend Eric and I playing one night at the local elementary school shooting bottle rockets at each other. It was somewhat of an absurd form of chicken with each of us firing the bottle rocket on the ground at each other to see who had the greatest accuracy as well as who would be the first to flinch. It is truly amazing that none of us actually got hurt.
It is once again that time of the year. I am no longer a young boy but now the father figure. Since we moved to Northern California I received one of my childhood dreams………fireworks are legal in the county in which we reside. Unfortunately, I am no longer a child and have assumed the role of a father – ironically, what was a childhood dream became a father’s nightmare. The 4th of July is probably one of the most stressful days of my life.
Every year the news has stories of children who have permanently disfigured their hands due to premature exploding fireworks. There are also frequent stories of homes burning down as a result of fireworks. Unfortunately, every year there are as many painful stories as stories of celebratory events in the community.
With that said, I have two boys just like my father did. Although the stress may have been overwhelming for my father at times, he absorbed the stress and allowed his sons to safely enjoy the fireworks and the 4th of July festivities. Therefore, like my father before me…..I spent about a hundred dollars on fireworks for the boys this year. As we waited for the sun to set, I filled a bucket of water for the boys to have readily available. Since there are open fields around my property, hoses were strategically positioned at all property lines as a precautionary measure. Then, a silent prayer was said and a worried father held his breath in hopes of an event-free evening.
The sunset and the fireworks began. The smiles and excitement on the kids face definitely warmed my heart. It may have been a somewhat stressful evening, but it was a joyous evening for the boys. The greatest thing about the cycle of life is that in about 25 years, my son’s will be reflecting on the irrational fears of their father when they were young and realize that they too have assumed those same fears. Life is humorous.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.