Hump Day Crush: Fireworks

Having grown up on a steady diet of classic movies and old TV shows, I have been programmed to equate fireworks with kissing that special someone.

As a hopeless romantic (no matter how much I try to fight it), I am forever in search of that perfect classic moment.

Needless to say, I still haven’t quite found it.

Growing up, there would be two or three nights of fireworks in early July. If possible, I would try to make it to every one of those Fourth of July celebrations. Each had a flavor of its own and each held a certain promise of chance encounter that could lead, I always hoped, to that elusive concurrence of inner and outer fireworks.

There were the very local fireworks at the Beach (the very generic name for the relatively generic and long nondescript man-made lake at the center of my home subdivision of town). This was back before fireworks were illegal, so a good number of people would bring a good number of things you’d be hard-pressed to find in most places these days. There were pinwheels and roman candles, tons of sparklers and at least a gross of bottle rockets. In later years, as the laws changed, things got a little more professional (out of necessity), and never quite compared to that oh-so-rural charm of the early years.

July marked the definite beginning of the summer season in my little town. The fireworks at the Beach were the second big event where you could hope to run into all the seasonal residents, fresh in from New York City or other points south. Among that crowd were a handful of kids my age and among that handful, more than a couple who I long lusted after. They were summer crushes, but those fantasies returned year after year, well into high school.

The other set of local fireworks were the official town ones. They went on near the town center, launched from the end of a dock in another lake (this one distinctly natural and quirky in its own way). The state boat launch and the streets around the lake were always packed with people. Again, many summer residents would be there, people who had not been seen for nine long, cold, months. These being the official fireworks, there was also a greater chance of running into people from my school who lived outside of my little sub-division. Again, a plethora of crushes, seasonal and non.

Finally, there was the big set of fireworks. They happened at the race track. My family and I would usually go early and catch the last race or three. Sometimes, we’d put a couple of dollars down on a horse. I don’t think we ever won. I never paid much attention, I was always too busy looking for people I knew so I could have an excuse to detach myself from my family. Being located in the county center, this fireworks display brought in the largest number of people. Without fail, there would be people from my school there. Usually one or two of them would be girls I had crushes on.

Over the years, none of those nights yielded that fleeting perfect moment I was so hoping for. I would watch the dark shapes in the crowd, waiting for the bloom of the fireworks to illuminate the upturned faces. I would strain to discern who was who and hope–oh! would I hope–that one would be looking back at me.

If our eyes could only meet in that instant, I thought, the rest would fall into place…

Not once did anything even close to that happen. In fact, I think I ended up spending more Fourth of July fireworks displays alone than anything else.

All of that hoping, all of that anxiety and planning and preoccupation with those media-induced longings for impossible perfection blinded me to the more simple and available pleasures. All of that time I spent watching the crowd in the slow motion strobe, I missed the beauty that was providing that light. Every moment I spent thinking “I wonder if she’ll notice me here,” I missed the obvious solution of going over and just saying hello.

By the time I graduated high school, I almost despised fireworks.

But with time and new experiences, I got my priorities straight.

Since then, I have enjoyed many a Fourth of July extravaganza. Often surrounded by friends. On a rare occasion or two with a significant other. That perfect movie kiss moment never manifested, but that’s mostly because you can’t plan for a moment like that. It just has to happen.

Perfect moments do that–they just happen. That’s what makes them perfect. All the planning, hoping and tweaking in the world can’t create a true perfect moment. Perfection is a natural occurrence and, therefore, only occurs in fleeting, unexpected, measure. They come from the pre-existing beauty that we have accepted. They come from the genuine emotion we put out there and that is returned to us.

Perfect moments sneak up on us, with or without actual fireworks.

But when they do happen, those metaphorical fireworks, long ago co-opted and diluted by pop culture, are more glorious than any gunpowder and iron flash-bang ever launched.

  • fiferjanis

    Hmm… when thinking about “perfect moments” the only one that really comes to mind… is me falling down the stairs flat on my face, breaking a finger.

    I was taking pictures in Switzerland of some interesting wall sconces and stuff, and didn’t notice the long shallow steps that matched the brickwork of the rest of the floor… I mis-stepped and went down. I twisted so that I would cushion the camera from the impact of the stone. The good news is the camera was ok. The bad news is my metacarpal in my hand (between the stone and the camera) took the brunt of the impact, and broke. No blood or major fracture or anything, but it hurt like a bitch.

    But as I sat there trying not to pass out (I get the wind knocked out of me easily) and taking stock of everything, Matt was at my side, obviously concerned for my well-being, checking me over… “Did the camera break?” “Don’t worry about it.” “I’m really sorry – I hope it didn’t break.” “It’s not important – you are.”

    No kissing, no fireworks, and certainly not a “pleasant” experience… but it was a magic moment. 🙂

  • fiferjanis

    Hmm… when thinking about “perfect moments” the only one that really comes to mind… is me falling down the stairs flat on my face, breaking a finger.

    I was taking pictures in Switzerland of some interesting wall sconces and stuff, and didn’t notice the long shallow steps that matched the brickwork of the rest of the floor… I mis-stepped and went down. I twisted so that I would cushion the camera from the impact of the stone. The good news is the camera was ok. The bad news is my metacarpal in my hand (between the stone and the camera) took the brunt of the impact, and broke. No blood or major fracture or anything, but it hurt like a bitch.

    But as I sat there trying not to pass out (I get the wind knocked out of me easily) and taking stock of everything, Matt was at my side, obviously concerned for my well-being, checking me over… “Did the camera break?” “Don’t worry about it.” “I’m really sorry – I hope it didn’t break.” “It’s not important – you are.”

    No kissing, no fireworks, and certainly not a “pleasant” experience… but it was a magic moment. 🙂

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