I remember growing up in Charlotte, and every year on the 4th of July my parents would take us to this park downtown. It was a lot like what they have here in St. Louis, minus the river. The city would put on a helluva fireworks show, blasting them off of some high rise, all to the music provided by the Charlotte Pops.
We’d arrive early and have a picnic dinner spread out in the park on a blanket. While the grownups hung out and talked, waiting for the show to start, we’d all run around and play.
It was awesome.
Once I got married and had my oldest daughter, my then-husband and I tried to continue that tradition. By then we were in St. Louis, so we’d go to the riverfront, get a seat as close to the Arch as possible, and watch the show.
My daughter hated it.
She was just a baby, and then a toddler. The noise of the fireworks scared her to death, and she hated all the people around her- half of ’em drunk, in much too close a proximity to her.
After a couple years, we stopped going to see the fireworks. It was too much work, and we couldn’t enjoy the show without my daughter flippin’ out. She would put her little hands over her ears, squeeze her eyes shut and scream at the top of her lungs until it was over.
We altered our tradition, instead barbecuing in the afternoon and then setting off our own fireworks that were store bought. I’d sit in the front yard with my daughter while my husband would light them one after another.
I must say- fire terrifies me- and always has. Year after year, I’d swallow my fears and pretend I didn’t have visions of body parts getting blown off. I’d paste a fake smile on my face, and watch my now-ex put on a show that was always full of sparks for our daughter.
Years later our family grew to include one more daughter- the baby of the bunch, and our tradition continued.
Eventually, we divorced.
Last year I had my ex come over to do his fireworks thing for our girls. They had a great time, and I didn’t have to try and overcome my fire phobia. I was able to do what I always have in the past- pull up a chair and watch the show.
This year he went out of town and was therefore unavailable… I was stuck.
No way was I willing to purchase any of those flying death traps myself. Hell, when I say I’m terrified of fire(works) I mean it. I won’t even use a sparkler unless I’m drunk and don’t know any better… but I found myself unwilling to allow the birthday of our country to pass by with no celebration.
I decided it was time to revive our old tradition of heading downtown to watch the fireworks show.
My oldest daughter isn’t a baby anymore, and within a month of her 10th birthday, she feels that she is scared of nothing. When I told her where we were going, she didn’t even bat an eye… apparently she has no memory of the 4th of July drama from her youth.
My youngest daughter in contrast, at 3, truly is fearless.
I told them it was time to get ready to go. I told them it was a special occassion… it’s the birthday of the USA afterall.
My oldest decided this was definitely something to get dressed up for (much like she dresses up for everything- even taking out the trash, it seems). She fastened on her fake hair- bought just yesterday from Walgreens, no less- stood in front of the mirror for about an hour and a half and finally decided she was ready to go. She looked very trendy- and old for her age.
My littlest one, not to be out-done, decided she needed to get diva-fied as well. She strapped on a huge sparkly plastic princess tiara, matching (and just as gaudy) clip-on earrings, a necklace, 2 rings and…
Her Princess shoes. These contraptions are pink, and the heels are about an inch high. They’re sandal-type things and are made of plastic. The strap that goes across the toe is clear and has glitter on it.
They clatter when she walks.
My daughters certainly are foreign creatures to me. I was wearing my signature jeans with a t-shirt and flip-flops. My hair was in a ponytail, I was wearing no make up (as usual), and of course had no fake hair. I don’t even have fake nails… and it’s doubtful I ever owned a tiara. Ever.
Where the heck did they inherit this girly-girl stuff?
I figured we left the house in plenty of time to find a decent spot to watch the show… we headed out around 7:30, and the fireworks display was set to begin just after 9… we only live a few miles away from the river.
I was horribly mistaken.
After driving around for half an hour trying to find a place to park (by this point I was ready to pay- any amount of money- for a decent spot), I had no choice but to pull into what I know was an illegal space a good 15 miles from the river (or that’s how far away it seemed anyhow). I’d have done better to walk from my little townhouse to the river… yea it would have taken a couple hours but really that’s how long I figured it would take to get from my rigged parking spot anyway.
Regardless, it took us a long time to get there from the car. A LONG time.
Part of this was sheer distance. The other, bigger part, was because of my youngest daughter.
Seems she had a little trouble walking in those princess shoes, but out of sheer determination (her mother’s stubbornness, I’m willing to bet), she would not be carried. She insisted on walking the whole way… it was frustrating to be sure… but I’m proud of my little trooper just the same. She also felt the need to stop all 30,000 spectators we came across to say hello and introduce herself.
Finally we found a spot and I gratefully plopped down on top of our blanket to watch.
The fireworks were beautiful. Stunning.
Neither of my girls cried or flinched during any part of the show.
They didn’t even cover their ears.
They were captivated- the water, the people, the gorgeous lights… all of it. They both went a little nuts, clapping and hooting during the finale. It was very sweet.
Afterwards, the walk back to the car was murder. 24 hours later I’m still recouperating. My little one’s determination to walk was apparently only a one-way endeavor, and I had to carry her- uphill, while she was sleeping- the entire way back.
Both of the girls were asleep by the time I maneuvered the people and the traffic and managed to get us home.
Today my body hurts from carrying my daughter 27 miles… and walking uphill the whole way… but I gave them a memory they’ll never forget, from the long walk to the fireworks to their fake hair and plastic princess shoes.
That, I must say, is absolutely priceless.