Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Perhaps a little taste.
Hopefully, not too much touch.

The fireworks of the Fourth are at least a tri-sensory experience, and a magnificant one I had pretty much decided to forsake this year. Last night, I sat at home while I heard the barrage going on outside. I really ought to have at least poked my head out the back porch door, or perhaps dragged the computer outside to work.

But I didn't.

I spent most of today rationalizing it and sour-graping. "It's just some fancy lights--you didn't miss anything..."

We went down to the in-laws this evening to practice the other Fourth tradition--over-eating.

My sister-in-law tried to get us to go with her to some fireworks that were launching out of a surrounding suburb, but we passed--"It's too far, and it's getting late, and there's so much to do..."

Instead, we stopped briefly at my wife's godparents' house--her godmother passed last month, quickly and completely unexpectedly. It's still pretty quiet around there--I think nobody really knows the right way to respond to the situation, probably because no right way exists.

As we sat back in our chairs, all around us the show began. Down in Champaign where I've lived most of my life, there's the main fireworks show, but not much else. Here, small families had started their own shows and soon there were explosions in every direction.

Across the alley there was a small galley of 3-7 year olds watching a father light up a few small fireworks. Up the block, another family with a reasonably sized cannon were competing with a group of teenagers who had set up in the opposite alley.

As the symphony began to pick-up we found ourselves jogging through the smoke to the corner where we could see further--every block as far as the eye could see had several parties launching volley after volley. 360 degrees of color and sound and smoke. Those patriot red-white-blue three-shots. Those tearing (both meanings) Weeping Willows. The looping Screamers. Those bright, gold behemoths that spawn dozens of little offspring.

It was a living, multi-organism, tri-sensory tapesty of an experience brought to us by the residents of Southwest Chicago. Working-class families dropping a few dollars a week into a little glass fireworks jar on their counter produced something more moving that a municipal fireworks committee.

So, it was expensive and bad for the environment and just some brief fancy lights. But it was beautiful. Certainly not as gorgeous as a well-supported education system or equal opportunity or quality health care. Perhaps tomorrow, basking in the afterglow of the spectacle, we can make some headway on those less ephemeral beauties?
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