OT: Fireworks

My basic feelings about the Fourth of the July holiday are unchanged from last year. I read two things that moved me yesterday, however: one by a recent immigrant, written with reference to his son, and the other a quote by the late American humorist Erma Bombeck: “You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”


I fear I lack the poetic gifts to write effectively about fireworks. Something about them is so ineluctably fleeting that I feel a bit silly, talking about the excitement I feel watching the light particles rush on the curves that lead to their endpoints, when a second later, they reach them, the sparkling light is gone, and nothing but smoke hangs in the air. As if the night sky burst with excitement only to leave nothing for me to think about except — nothing. By the time I have the words to describe the effect, the effect has disappeared. For the spectator, it all forbids overthought.

Last year I cooked the typical Midwestern U.S. Fourth of July picnic fare, and we watched the township display from our backyard with my brother’s family. This year, my mother ate prune juice, pureed tomato soup, skim milk, and raspberry sherbet, I ate nothing because I missed the cafeteria closing time, and my father is not allowed to drive after dark, so he went home and the church ladies fed him. Mom and I had the best seats for a display that we’ve ever had — the park where the fireworks are shown in this city is about 200 m as the crow flies from her hospital room. So we sat at the window (after unhooking and rehooking IV, oxygen, catheter, analgesic, and pulse ox, plus the electricity that runs the monitor) in 70 degree temperatures, in comfortable chairs, with no mosquitoes, the sixth floor the perfect height for looking over the trees. First came a promenade of boats lit up for the holiday, and then the fireworks. The floor was almost empty, too, as no surgeries were scheduled yesterday, so it felt like someone, somewhere, was shooting rockets just for us. The window was small, so I pushed my mother toward it and then sat behind her with my chin propped on her shoulder.

It was a strange sort of gift but one we needed, forty-five minutes of instantaneity, in sharp contrast to yet another day of watching urine drip into a reservoir and wondering what would happen if it didn’t drip faster, painting out all sorts of dire futures that no one was talking about. As each shell catapulted to the top of its arc, exploded, stunned our eyes, fell, and disappeared, we had nothing to do but react — the event was there, and then gone, gone as fast as if it had never been, with no future at all to think about.

When it was over, I unhooked the rehooking and then rehooked it again to the bed after she moved there. We prayed the evening prayer — for into your hands I commend myself, body and soul, and all things — and Nurse Kevin came to do evening vitals and give a sleeping pill. His hands were very gentle.

~ by Servetus on July 5, 2012.

14 Responses to “OT: Fireworks”

  1. Beautiful, Servitus. God bless.


  2. I’m really glad you had this experience together. I love fireworks. We all seem to be kids again having a sort of gee-whiz moment watching them light up the night sky. A good gift at a time you really needed it.
    And hooray for Nurse Kevin. Very gentle hands make so much difference.


  3. :*


  4. I’m glad, too, that you had that time together with your mom. What a wonderful image I have in my mind now, of the two of you close together enjoying the celebration in the sky.
    I think fireworks are a little like music, because both only exist within time, really. Do you know what I mean? There’s no tune if you hold onto one note, and no firework if there’s no explosion. They sparkle bright against the night and then are gone. But we can always remember what those moments were like, and cherish them.


  5. Just – blessings on you and family. Moments are what we live, take with us, to live the moment and cherish and keep in the future.


  6. Moments like this make us go on I think. I am glad you two shared it! Take care


  7. Wishing you more shared joys, thinking of you and yours. May all the fireworks in your life be the very best kind.


  8. You have my very best wishes for your mother’s recovery. Thank you for letting us see what is happening with you and your family.

    Shabbat shalom.


  9. Just best wishes on you and family.


  10. Best wishes & every hope for your Mum’s recovery come winging their way to you from the UK.


  11. One of our traders came by my desk to tell me she still hears from two of our former colleagues (traders in Chicago) who write to her every 4th of July, thanking her for the US national holiday. 😉

    I’m glad you had such a poignant 4th of July experience. There’s something so sensory about fireworks that requires no further explanation, I feel. There’s the audio ‘boom’ and then the cascading shimmer of light. And then again. And yet another.

    Thanks also for posting the Younge article. I very much appreciated his articulation and deft observations. My favorite line was probably:

    “Britain doesn’t have an independence day; it simply looks askance as most of the rest of the world celebrates independence from IT.”

    I don’t know why, but it just made me grin.


  12. Thanks for all of the positive and supportive comments and thoughts and prayers.


  13. […] turned out ), and made the big Wisconsin picnic and thought about what it meant to be an American. Last year, mom and I watched fireworks from a hospital room and then prayed before she went to […]


  14. […] Independence Day cheer! The last two years, I watched the fireworks from hospital rooms with mom (2012 and 2013), despite the mood, the best views of the city fireworks we’d ever had, and no bugs! […]


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