Sunday, July 5, 2009


The weather was “iffy” last night, and cool, so we decided that rather than watching the fireworks from blankets on the rain-soaked ground, we’d just head to the Target parking lot and watch from the back of the car. We’ve watched the fireworks there before, and we knew we’d be able to see enough—just not the low-to-the-ground displays.

Of course, we forgot to bring chairs of any sort, and all five of us couldn’t fit in the back of the van, so it took us a little while to figure out exactly where each of us would sit. Once the fireworks started and we could see that we couldn’t see, we headed over toward a grassy area where other people were gathered.

I’ve always had a fascination with fireworks. How someone could pack the sounds and sparkles and colors and happiness of a million little specks of light into one cylinder is beyond my comprehension. It seems dangerous and dark, yet thrilling all at once. Every year I tell myself, “You’ve seen it before, don’t get excited.” And yet, every year I feel like a kid again as the sparkling and the twinkling and the crashing begins.

I can “ooh” and “aah” with the best of them. Just ask my kids.

My favorites are the ones that look like willow trees—they come spraying out all golden and then end up with millions of tiny diamonds that twinkle their way down to the ground. It’s just magical to me, and I sometimes wonder if I headed back to the fairgrounds the next day to take a look around if I’d find even one of those sparkly diamonds waiting for me in the grass.

As we stood and watched the fireworks, I began to notice the people around me. Little kids, no older than five, were running everywhere—everywhere!—at full speed, and I turned to B and said, “Remember that feeling when you were a kid and you could run as fast as you could forever?”

We both agreed that we’d love to feel like that again, even for a few minutes.

The grassy field near us was filling up with fast-running little kids twirling neon glow sticks, their parents sitting in portable lawn chairs next to the curb. Teenagers on dates sat on blankets nearby. And my little clan huddled together, enjoying the moment, even if it was for the sake of tradition.

Next to me sat an old man with whom I presume was his daughter. She was in her late-50s or early-60s, and he looked to be well into his 80s. They both sat quietly, side by side, not talking much but occasionally glancing at one another, smiling.

I took a good long look at this man, his hands gnarled and spotted, his knuckles swollen with age. He wore black pants, a black checked dress shirt underneath a gray cardigan that was so old it was pilled all over. On top of his head he wore an old-fashioned hat, the kind that comes together at the bill—is it a driving cap or an ivy cap? He wore white Converse tennis shoes and white athletic socks. All-in-all he was dressed quite well for a fireworks display.

Partway through the fireworks, I noticed that the man was struggling with something in his hand. It was a miniature Kit Kat bar that he was having a little trouble opening. After a couple of minutes, though, he had success, and I watched him as he enjoyed his little treat for the evening, a slight smile creeping to the edge of his mouth.

I wondered about this man and his daughter. What made them head to the Target parking lot together to watch fireworks with the younger families? Did she do it as a special treat for him? Did they have some sort of tradition of watching fireworks together, just the two of them? Did they somehow, in some unspoken way, know that this could possibly be the last fireworks display that the old man would ever get to see?

As I pondered them, I found myself getting choked up. Tears came to my eyes as I wondered how many fireworks displays this man had seen in his life and how many he would have yet to see.

I looked at my little brood sitting all around me, happy with the effort we had made to get to the fireworks, and thought, “I hope they all have the opportunity to sit with their own sons or daughters when they are 85 and watch fireworks together.” What a blessing that would be.

And I hope that when I’m 85, should God give me that many years, I’ll be sitting in the Target parking lot or wherever I am, still enjoying the childlike thrill of watching diamonds fall from the sky.


  1. What a lovely post. Thank you.

  2. You are only 8 years away from the dad and daughter you described. That makes me melancholy.

  3. Beautiful blog, Shell. We have an elderly neighbor, in his late
    80's, who loves fireworks. He has never missed our party and enjoys it like a little boy as well. I wouldn't be surprised if we have fireworks in Heaven. At least from what I've learned about it that most certainly seems possible!

  4. I am still like a child watching fireworks and expect it to still be so when I'm 85. I ooooh and aaaah and clap without thinking about it. This is a beautiful post. Sweet. Diamonds falling from the sky indeed.

  5. Oh, this is a lovely piece, Shel!

    From one who enjoys fireworks—and who also counts the white, willowy ones with sparkles as my all-time, absolute, favorites—thank you for describing this magical event in such a beautiful way.

  6. I was watching fireworks with my friend Kelli, and we agreed that the "willow tree" ones were the best. Unfortunately, we didn't see a single one that night. :(

    Sweet story. I teared up. Again. Stop writing about my sweet family and sweet old people! :)-