By Holly Herring
I have a guilty pleasure—it’s fireworks.
I know, sometimes the noise scares people, domestic pets and wild animals. I have been fortunate to never have a pet that was frightened by them. I have PTSD and I was also spared the fear of the loud BOOM. I am really glad to have discovered fireworks because they have become a beautiful part of my life.
When I look back, I don’t have any memories of Independence Day celebrations until I had already left home.
I remember being a teenager enjoying a night at a lake with my community and seeing a fantastic display of colors and flashes. I recall a couple years later visiting a relative on her cul de sac where they had an annual block party complete with small fireworks for the children. I remember a year or two later spending the evening in the parking lot of a local amusement park playing Rummy at a card table in tailgate style while the park put on a grand display, but nothing prior.
A few years ago, my husband Lou and I traveled to the Nevada desert to visit my son.
We stopped just outside my son’s small town at a fireworks stand to see how much fireworks cost. There we wandered around the store reading boxes and looking at prices. We had no experience with fireworks so we asked the store clerk for his opinion. Finally we made our selections and paid up at the counter. We bought some fresh tamales off a truck outside and examined our purchase as we loaded them into the trunk. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.
We arrived at our hotel shortly after and waited for my son to come visit us. I told him about our exciting purchase and he sighed with exasperation as he rolled his eyes, “Oh mom”, he groaned. I asked if he wanted to go with us to let them off and he told me he had no interest in this. Feeling a little deflated, I decided that I would ask local friends later if they would recommend a launch site. Fortunately, they knew the absolute best place for us to have this adventure; which is exactly what we did later that night.
After it got dark we loaded our two dogs into the car and took ourselves and our new explosive treasures out to the middle of nowhere. We were so inexperienced with fireworks we had to read the instructions to know how to set them up and light them.
I was only two years into recovery from a reconstructive orthopedic surgery and wasn’t moving really quick, so Lou was assigned the duty of lighting the fuses then running away while I sat a safe distance away on the ground. He lit the first fuse and ran towards me as I watched with delight as the first firework shot straight up into the sky and then exploded in glittery gold and red streamers with a loud “BOOM”!
We were hooked. We made more trips to Nevada both to visit my son and to indulge ourselves in this new joy we had found. Letting off fireworks became something that we really enjoyed doing together. This was something we spent a lot of time talking about, planning and saving for. We talked excitedly to each other about the next time we would have what we had started to refer to as a “Boom Day.”
We recently celebrated “Boom Day” for the first time in our new state.
The laws here in New Mexico are much looser than they were at our old home in California. I spent a couple days driving around our town to find a really great viewing spot where we could have a picnic, enjoy some time with our dogs, and see as much of the city as possible to watch the BOOMs.
I found the best spot I could with no real knowledge of where the shows would be—an open space preserve in the foothills that had a view to die for. We could see almost the whole city from this one spot.
I spent the day before Independence Day preparing our picnic foods and getting our camp chairs and dog toys packed. We then loaded our family up in the car and traveled to the foothills and our viewing spot for the evening. We happily ate our snacks and played with the dogs until it started getting dark. Then it started happening. The fireworks started popping off all over town.
I had never seen anything like it. There were sanctioned fireworks shows that we could see, but also an uncountable number of what had to have been unsanctioned fireworks displays all over the whole town. As we watched there was a constant display filling the night sky with all the colors I had ever dreamed of in bright fountains of light.
One house in the neighborhood to our left was putting on a fantastic show for their children and they went off practically above our heads. The dogs sat in our laps looking out over the city with curiosity. Lou reached over and held my hand without taking his eyes off the sky. The hairs on my scalp felt electric.
We were absolutely mesmerized. We were happy.
Once we stopped seeing fireworks, we loaded up the car and began the short drive home together. I suddenly had something to say about what I had seen.
“Lou, that was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” He looked at me and smiled. I continued, “This whole town loves fireworks. All those people probably saved up their money just like we do and picked out their prized fireworks at the local stands. A whole city waited in their yards and in vacant lots and they didn’t just enjoy this themselves, they shared it with everyone. Collectively this whole city looked up at the sky tonight and a community shared their beauty with one another.” Lou squeezed my hand and agreed that it was beautiful.
I have difficulty feeling like I belong anywhere. I have PTSD and a lot of things are ugly and frightening to me. But watching an entire town display such beauty for the community, including my little family, to enjoy together was a moment I will never forget. I felt like I belonged—I was welcomed—like I was a part of something beautiful we all shared.
The last few years have been very politically traumatic for me. I cannot remember a day where I woke up and nothing astonishing was happening in the news and all around me. I haven’t felt like I wanted to be a participating member in a great deal of the state of the world around me.
My leaders are making very poor choices every day. The people I interact with day in and day out are affected in horrible ways. People are dying. But for an evening I felt like I was living in harmony and it was so beautiful.
This one evening of bright lights shared freely by a whole community gave me hope for something more.
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