Column | A special time: backyard fireworks with hardly any supervision
I’m looking forward to another professionally orchestrated fireworks display at our municipal recreation center this Independence Day, but nothing can quite match my childhood memories of backyard fireworks extravaganzas with barely any adult supervision.
For a too-brief span of years, a cherished summertime tradition was a visit by Lew and Bob, my two oldest cousins on my mother’s side of the family. Fireworks sales were very restricted in their part of Pennsylvania, so they went hog wild and pig crazy with pyrotechnics when visiting Tennessee.
Lew had two young children to impress and Bob was still a carefree bachelor, so they splurged on all sorts of things that went “boom.” I think my favorite was trademarked as “Mortgage Payment? Who Needs A Mortgage Payment?” or something like that.
Yes, the displays were dangerous; but I wouldn’t take a million dollars for those rough-and-tumble days when we weren’t so mollycoddled by helicopter parents. That was a golden age when we could bounce out of the back of a pickup truck without any lasting consequences. Oh, and did I mention that was a golden age when we could bounce out of the back of a pickup truck without any lasting consequences?
Mind you, it wasn’t all just fun for fun’s sake. When we were out of school for the summer, the fireworks were a red-white-and-blue patriotic way to keep from forgetting our civics lessons. “I only regret that I have but 10 fingers to lose for my country.”
Don’t get me wrong. I do not come here to second-guess or condemn civic leaders who try to impose common sense restrictions on fireworks. I realize there are lots of reasons they risk being branded a spoilsport.
Loud fireworks can be distressing for pets. Just as mayors can be distressed by the realization that they missed out on the “emotional support animals for emotional support animals” grant gravy train.
There are drought conditions that exploit stray fireworks. There are concerns about possible damage to utility lines. There are neighbors whose sleep patterns may not mesh well with revelers. There are city leaders who apparently have a Roman candle wedged oh so tightly up their … well, there are lots of reasons.
I’m sure there are carbon-footprint-conscious crusaders who gnash their teeth at the smoke billowing from bottle rockets, but they should leave well enough alone. Or they just might provoke someone into developing a pyrotechnic dubbed Flatulent Cow.
In trying to research this column, I found a crazy quilt of regulations across the country. Not only is there a nationwide ban on certain high-powered explosives – you know the slogan: “I can’t believe it’s not a mailbox any longer,” but states and municipalities have all sorts of capricious distinctions about dates and hours and “consumer fireworks” and “novelty items” and the like. “For sale only when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars …”
A few communities have loosened fireworks restrictions, but there are too many other pressing issues to keep large-scale deregulation from being a priority. “Oops. My gender is so fluid it put out the sparklers. My bad.”
Alas, cousin Lew passed away a decade ago. Bob lost a long battle with kidney disease in May. But I’ll always remember them as overgrown kids. And hope that they didn’t get busted smuggling bootleg Hammer of Thunder in their halos.