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peak:

It's July 4th!


valley:

I was quite worried with our thunderstorm earlier today... but the sun has come out and I'm feeling few worries.


noise:

The Beatles: 1962-1966
Garth Brooks: No Fences
Kenny Chesney:
Greatest Hits


sustenance:

Nothing.


thoughts:

Need a good show. Want a good crowd. Gonna have a good time. Oh, yeah, and thinking about last year.


365:

July 4: Butterflies.


wednesday, july 4th

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Quote Du Jour:
"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community... and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." (George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright)


The countdown to my 2001 fireworks extravaganza can now be measured in hours instead of days. In a little more than six hours, Jessie, my Little Brother and I will do our best to excite and amaze the audience assembled in lawn chairs in my front yard, in their cars parked along both sides of the street and at neighboring homes and apartments. Every year, the show gets a little bit bigger and the number of folks that come to watch grows a little larger, too.

Last year, we saw somewhere around 80 folks in the immediate vicinity of my house. If the weather conditions were ideal (more on that later), I would expect us to hit 100 this year. Of course, big numbers aren't everything. I'm just happy that folks show up. I'd enjoy the fireworks if it were only the three of us shooting them for ourselves in the middle of nowhere... But the audiences add to the fun in ways that I can't begin to describe. The performer in me comes out... I love to put on a show for others... and I love the sound of applause afterward. That's the cue that we've connected in some way to those people through a medium I thoroughly enjoy. Shouldn't everyone be so lucky to experience that?

                                        *  *  *  *  *

My love for fireworks and for shooting them for others comes from my grandfather -- my mother's father. From long before I was born until the year before his death, he produced a display on New Year's Eve in the lot across from his house. Practically everyone in the family played some role in the display and I was happy to help as much as possible. I still remember walking around in the bedroom where the fireworks were stored looking over the loot. I remember the electricity in the air as midnight on New Year's Eve approached although I don't remember much about the shows themselves. I guess the many fireworks I've seen over the years makes it difficult to distinguish when I saw what. After the display, the house would fill with people -- drinking and merrymaking -- celebrating the new year.

Of all the memories that will stick with me from childhood, the memories of those New Year's Eves will rank among my most cherished. Most times, memories must be left in the past... but with fireworks, I'm given the chance to relive those New Year's Eves every July 4th. And every year we shoot an Independence Day show, it feels more like the old days.

                                        *  *  *  *  *

My family didn't stop shooting fireworks when my grandfather died. We just stopped shooting them for others. New Year's Eve stopped being the big event it once was and became a small family affair for my mother, brother and I. Instead of my grandfather making wholesale purchases and enlisting the family to shoot the display, we would stop into a local fireworks stand and make a few selections. We added July 4th to our list of fireworks holidays and slowly, as the years passed, bought more and more fireworks.

In 1995, we moved into a new house that, like my grandparents' house, had a large empty lot across the street. The lot gave us a place to shoot a real show if we wanted to. We started inviting friends over to the house to watch our small displays. At first, Jeremy, Little Brother and I fired the shows. However, Jeremy skipped out on us one year and was permanently replaced with Jessie. That one was one of two things that sparked my family's return to public displays.

About four years ago, the expense of buying enough fireworks for two shows a year grew too great. Because the attendance for the 9 p.m. summer displays had always been better than those for the midnight December shows, we focused our attention on July 4th. About the same time, the second great thing happened to our shows... My mother invited her church group over to the house. I think we put on a better show than they expected to see and the interest in our shows have grown every year since. We don't advertise except through word of mouth and its amazing to see who finds out about our festivities every year.

Yesterday, someone called the house. She was new in town and had called the local police department to inquire as to whether or not fireworks were illegal here and if we had a community display. The person who answered the phone at the police department told her that they only enforced the fireworks laws if there were complaints and as far as a community display went, they advised the woman to call my house for information. How cool is that?

                                        *  *  *  *  *

Tonight, if all goes as planned, we'll light up the sky. The smoke will drift across the open lot and the smell of gunpowder will fill the air. Before picking up our mess in the lot, Jessie, Little Brother and I will walk over to the house and shake hands. We'll accept congratulations. We'll thank people for choosing to include our fireworks in their holiday plans. My house will fill with people. I will know most of them -- some better than others -- but that won't matter. The atmosphere will be what counts. For a short while, my mind can reach back and pull out the memories of New Year's Eves long ago and for that short while, I'll live in two times at once.


Of course, it should be worth noting that in the paragraph above, I used the phrase, "if all goes well." So far, things stand on shaky ground. It has been raining off and on for a week and earlier this afternoon, we had a heavy thunderstorm. The rain doesn't bother me as we're probably willing to shoot the show as long as it isn't lightening. However, nasty weather tends to scare off our audience. Luckily, the sun has come out and the skies look good for now. Good Lord willing, things will stay that way until after the show.

copyright © 2001-02, Thomas Fletcher. all rights reserved.