The other night, July 4th, it had the old magic running through it. I have never been a flag waving, springsteen blasting celebrator, but the night usually is one of my favorites of the year because everyone’s out late looking up at the sky and talking and eating together. My childhood 4ths were spent on the river on the back of my house and up and down it’s length there would be people BBQ’ing and boating and shooting cannons and starting huge fires that could be seen from miles away, general indulging in full fledged fun chaos. I would be in the water swimming around the jellyfish, or in the gazebo drinking lemonade, or riding my bike up and down the huge hill that I lived at the bottom of and, being one of the youngest persons participating in the celebration, just trying to understand everything that everyone was doing.
As I got older, the 4th took on a different significance. My parents moved to a different town, more in the woods. We didn’t know our neighbors, and no one was lighting off fireworks or cooking or whatever. It was quiet, strange. My few friends and I began rituals of buying cheap fireworks and smoke bombs and lighting them off in the huge field next to my house, then going on long drives down to various beaches that we would sprint up and down or skip stones under the moon. The night would usually end under the Mt. Hope Bridge, a suspension bridge connecting the east bay with Aquidneck island. The bridge would creak and swing in the night, bringing an eerie close to what had already been a surreal trip.
One notable exception to the rituals is one summer when I was briefly living in Providence (where my rent was feeding cats and being ready to build a pizza oven when asked) and Nora and I wandered all over the east side getting to the top of a rainsoaked hill and looking out and seeing fireworks from all over RI. The thunderstorm that had just ended left everything smelling amazing, and because everyone had turned in when the rain started there was so much quiet. I think there was more quiet than I’ve experience before or after that night.
Last year, I moved to a different state. By July I had just moved out of my apartment and was preparing for a two month period of transience, couch and bed surfing as much as I could before I finally moved into my current home. I have literally no clue what I did that 4th?? It’s a lost day in a hectic year. BUT - last night more than made up for it. After going to a friend’s BBQ, I got home and was sitting in my kitchen with Lauren and Nora when fireworks started going off. We realized they were close, very close, so as we walked down the street and turned the corner were confronted with fireworks shooting off in the middle of the street, firing up above all the houses and vacant lots we know so well. A mad dash began, seeing other fireworks reflected in windows and running to where we thought they were going off. Finally finding the spot we could watch two different street parties shoot them up while jokers on the roof above us lit salutes sporadically. There were so many people out, all happy and friendly, and the air was filled with smoke and bright lights.
Chasing the thrill, we decided to bike up to where the big fireworks were going off. We pedaled up along the Delaware, which looked particularly dark in deep in the moonlight. Gliding through people and statues and hotels we got to the landing and found it was all done. Just as we pulled up, the lights of the ferris wheel went out. It was dark. We sat by the river, next to a box of forgotten french fries, and looked off to New Jersey. It was getting late, a tired wash spread over our bodies. We rode back home through streets alternating between quiet and madness, and made it home exactly at midnight on July 5th.
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