Every fourth of July, my family heads out in search of the perfect spot from which to watch the fireworks display. We’ll stroll through town to see what the neighbors are doing, we’ll sit in traffic as we inch toward the city along with all of the other last-minute planners in town. Ultimately, every fourth of July, we wind up watching the Macy*s display on TV because, in truth, that is the best view. We’re comfortable on the sofa, not standing or straining our necks to see the sky. We’re surrounded by a/c, not shoulder to shoulder with strangers in the sweltering July night air. And we have snacks.
Last year, however, we planned early and headed up to Rye, New York where, at Rye Playland, there would be an evening fireworks display. It was going to be perfect. The first live, professional display we would see as a family.
We arrived early and enjoyed some brain-scrambling rides and a mind-sorting stroll along the boardwalk. When the heat became too much for us, we found a shady area where we could sit, relish the lush coolness of overpriced ice cream and watch a bandshell performance. With tummy’s too full for more rides, we spent some tokens in the arcade at the ice hockey and skeeball tables then sinfully noshed on food items we’d deem questionable at any other venue.
And then, as the air grew slightly less humid, and the sky turned gorgeous shades of pink and blue, we headed toward the paths overlooking the Long Island Sound. We plucked our way through a growing crowd until we picked a perfect and comfortable vantage spot from which we’d wait for the start of the show.
We waited standing. We waited leaning against the chin high wrought iron fence. We waited sitting cross-legged on the ground. We waited, fanning ourselves, as the cooler night air no longer seemed cool. We commiserated about the long wait with strangers sitting beside us. We laughed. We chatted. We met people from our own neighborhood who had taken the drive as we did. We met people from France and Poland. We complained at how late it was getting with nary a hint of celebration in the sky.
And then music blasted over Golliath-sized speakers and we all jumped, covered our ears, then laughed and rose to our feet, eager for the show to finally begin…and with a sputter, it did. The music faltered as the first rockets shot into the air. The music started again. Fireworks were suddenly absent. Silence fell and we waited. Faces tipped to the sky. And then another blast of music and crash of explosions sounded above us, beside us, in all directions as glorious showers of light streaked through the sky.
Ooo’s and aaah’s came from the crowd. Applause, pointing, random “wow’s” and laughter sounded all around and then…all went quiet. And dark. Again. And then a sputter, like a premature ejaculation, left us all with brows furrowed as we wondered over the anti-climatic conclusion to the show. Many people turned away, young ones skipping, smiling and happy about what they just saw. Older ones wondering if they should request a refund since staying for the fireworks required an additional park fee.
As they reached the mid-point toward the exit, the music started again. People stood in the exit paths, faces to the clouds again as the sky lit up and an awe-inspiring show ensued. The music and explosions were not in sync but at that point, no one cared.
We’d made friends with the people beside us. We’d shared quips about ‘poor performances’, and we bitched about poor planning. We also shared sympathy for the firework handlers since the whole thing had been planned quite properly but a computer glitch had sent the whole show – and all of the computer techs and summer part-timers – scrambling to get this once-per-year event back on track.
Here’s a look at the show as we saw it that night –
What does all of this mean? If the show had gone off without a hitch, we would have loved it, we would have thought back on it fondly and agreed to go back there again one day. But this night, with all of its mishaps, was our most memorable Independence Day celebration.
The imperfections of the night made it memorable.
And from that memorable night, I’ve taken this –
Strive to do the best you can but keep it personal, keep it real. Make it memorable.