We got closer to a real fireworks display this 4th of July than our kids have ever been. In their short lives they’ve only seen the downtown Chicago firework shows from wa-a-ay down the lakefront, like exploding colorful blips on the horizon. The festive mood was made then at our lakeshore viewing spot by the radio-toting crowd, out to celebrate Independence Day from the comfort of our neighborhood and at a distance from the Grant Park throngs. These park revelers were not without their own fireworks, and kept the party going until the wee hours, launching bottle rockets as long as they could get away with it, right outside our apartment windows. Crackle crackle boom.
This year we decided to check out our new local happenings by attending a small-town version of the same celebration–a concert given by the town’s Chorale and Philharmonic featuring good old American favorites, a trumpet virtuoso, a tuba soloist, flavored with a bit of jazz, and some spirituals (I’m Gonna Lay Down My Burdens…down by…). Sorry to say we missed the University’s pipeband at the beginning, but we got to see the guys in their kilts leaving and carrying pipes and drums as we arrived. The other purpose of the event was to honor current members of the armed forces and to give them awards for service to our country, as well as business leaders in the community who somehow contributed as “Patriots.” Notably, after the last sing-along chorus of “study war no more,” it was the people in uniform who rose to their feet first for an ovation.
We enjoyed the music and being a part of the holiday crowd, but the boys were most impressed by the number of flags they could count, a miniature jet provided by the Airforce base that they could sit in, the fly-over of a huge army jet above us, and the presence of people in uniform. They could hardly stand the waiting-for-the-fireworks part of the night though, and we took advantage of a concert intermission to move our blanket to the far end of the park for runaround space and a better sky vantage point.
And then it was time…
At a certain point I stopped playing with my camera and sat back to enjoy the show, all the way to the finale. L remarked that this was the best 4th of July ever, wide-eyed, as he took in every burst and boom. Fireworks are just about my favorite visual spectacle too, with their light, color, noise, and surprise, and like nothing else can bring out the patriot in me. Except for maybe this: just as the finale fizzled out and everyone in the park began to cheer, the loudspeakers were playing “We Shall Overcome,” a single woman’s voice singing out over us, the dispersing crowd. and then I really felt it—the flag IS still there.