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Fireworks, Fearing Death and Other Family Fun on the 4th of July

Every 4th of July for me is exactly the same. Every 4th of July I fear for my life.
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Every 4th of July for me is exactly the same. Every 4th of July I fear for my life.

The holiday weekend always starts out nicely enough. My husband and son take an overnight camping trip for a little father-son bonding time and granting me a little alone time. When this tradition started a few years ago, I was an enthusiastic supporter, but as they pulled out of the driveway loaded down with camping supplies, fishing gear and a canoe strapped to the roof that first year, worry set in. As I stood in the driveway waving goodbye, it occurred to me that my husband's use of the term "camping" might really just be a euphemism like when parents claim they're taking the beloved family pet to the "farm" upstate.

The thing is our son has a way of driving my husband, Kevin, crazy with his incessant, repetitive chatter and pure, unadulterated enthusiasm and all. Kevin isn't against enthusiasm, per say. He just prefers people to keep it to themselves. God! Why do people have to shove their enthusiasm in his face?

Meanwhile our son bursts with natural optimism and unadulterated joy. I know it doesn't sound so horrible, and when you think of all the unpleasant traits your kids could have, it's really not. Except if you're Kevin. He can only tollerate so much exuberance per day, and by the top of the fifth consecutive hour he begins to sour and quickly becomes enraged. (Just kidding, honey. I know you are a very patient man, and nobody should ever have to endure so much unbridled happiness.)

It's not so much the happiness that infuriates Kevin as it is the continual, high-voltage, explosive mode our son is set to. He's always turbo charged unless you want him to do something like eat his dinner or get ready for school. Then he's completely inert. Kevin, though, requires a tranquil, quiet, soothing environment so you can see my cause for concern when I learned the two were going to spend a full 24 hours together without my intervention.

The next day both returned home no worse for the wear, and I was relieved "camping" wasn't actually code for "I'm taking him far, far away and tying him to a fencepost, and if anyone happens by looking for a young, friendly, good-natured male, they can have him."

That really shouldn't have been my main concern over the holiday weekend though. An event a lot more terrifying than my kid being left for dead on a country road takes place in my town every year over the holiday weekend. It's called the town's fireworks display.

At least if my child was left to perish in an undisclosed location, I could attempt a rescue. Well, if I was able to pry the information on his whereabouts out of Kevin, anyway. With the town fireworks, rescue may not be an option. Still, it doesn't stop my husband or kids from wanting to go.

Every year we go, and every year I think I'm going to die. The show is that scary. I'm aware the display is being run by professionals, and I'm sure the experts employed by the town expressly for this purpose know what they're doing, but I can't help but wonder about the safety of pyrotechnics exploding two feet from your face.

I wouldn't suggest any of this is unsafe. It's just that I've never been that close to massive amounts of explosives. And I'm not sure anyone really should be.

I'd rather watch the fireworks from the safe distance of my living room because then I'd actually be able to relax and view the grand finale. While the high school's field is billed as the best place to view the fireworks, by the time the grand finale starts the grounds are so smoke-filled spectators can't make out the brilliant bursts of shimmering color through the dense black haze. Instead of delighting at the event's pinnacle, the crowd runs gasping and coughing from the field for a breath of carcinogen-free air. I've been going to the celebration for the past 8 years in a row, but I've never once actually seen the finale.

So tonight, as is our tradition, my family will take our lives in our hands and see the town's fireworks display.

Wish us luck.

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