Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf
Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of July 3, 2017
I don’t love fireworks, but I don’t hate them either. I think they are fun and pretty, and I have many memories of my childhood of Fourth of July with my dad and his love of Black Cat firecrackers.
I think there are a time and place for fireworks — celebrations, and of course the Fourth of July, but I would differ with people on the time or place.
One of my dad’s favorite activities with the Black Cat firecrackers was making a hole in a tin can, setting a firecracker in the hole, setting it in a pan of water and seeing how high in the air the firecracker would blow the can. When I was a kid, fireworks of almost any kind were illegal except for sparklers, and if I remember right, small firecrackers and snakes might also have been legal. Penalties were different in those days. If the police caught you with firecrackers you were given a warning not a fine — at least that is what happened to my family and friends.
On the Fourth of July, we would travel to my dad’s farm, have a bonfire and shoot our fireworks. Probably many of them were illegal fireworks. I suppose it could be said that we were being told one time a year it was fine to break the law. We never talked about it but if I think about it now, it goes into that gray area where we choose what we want our kids to believe about honesty and following the law. However, most of my family and friends found a countryside to shoot fireworks. Half of that was because of the law and half was because of respect for our neighbors.
I still remember visiting my son in Omaha one July Fourth. They had a watering ban because it was so dry and people would be fined for watering lawns. It was also illegal to shoot fireworks in the city of Omaha. But that was a law everyone ignored, so on the morning of the Fourth, the paper’s headlines were: If you are going to shoot fireworks please water your lawns. The fireworks started in the neighborhood around 8 a.m. and continued until about 2 a.m. the next morning. It wasn’t little fireworks, but many were the kind you see at events. The next morning the street sweeper cleaned the streets as it looked like it had snowed fireworks, and the street and lawns were covered with debris. It was a fun day because it was expected, and people knew what was going to happen.
The past few weeks around 11 or 11:30 p.m. loud booms could be heard in our neighborhood and other neighborhoods in our community. Facebook comments lit up in protest of the noise so late at night. Dogs and cats got scared and caused problems for their owners. Small children woke from their sleep scared, and those who suffer from PTSD almost took cover. Many veterans, no matter how long it has been, dive for shelter when they hear the noise because it brings back memories from their time in the war. It was an inappropriate time for fireworks because it was unexpected.
People felt there was a lack of respect for their neighbors. It is easier on veterans, children, and pets if you can prepare for the event that might shake their world. I know we can’t always prepare for the unexpected but in this case, trauma can be avoided by warning your neighbors, waiting until the actual day, or taking your fireworks into the country and an open area where others will not hear.
It is Independence Day and we should be celebrating. Fireworks are fun but remember to be careful is also a part of shooting off fireworks. Kids love fireworks. My grandkids are excited about this holiday. My husband and I will be staying home because he is one of those veterans who wants to take a dive when they hear the sound. We do not go to firework events. I remember the first time I was with him when we were dating, and fireworks started at an event. He almost pulled me straight to the ground on the pavement. Years later, the sound still sometimes triggers that feeling.
Enjoy your day. Have fun, be respectful and show your pride in being an American. We do live in a great land.
Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org