on Fireworks

Added on by Taylor Smith.

Fireworks scare the crap out of me. I’m not talking about the ones you go see at the city park on Independence Day, or the ones Disneyland lights off every night all summer long. I am talking about the ones people bring home and light off in the driveway. Am I the only one who sees these things as a brush fire and/or a few missing fingers just waiting to happen?

Growing up in Riverside County, as I did, fireworks were always illegal. The only type of fireworks you could get your hands on—including sparklers—were illegal ones. Apparently, California leaves the legality of fireworks, at least partly, up to the counties, and some counties leave that up to the individual cities. So, for me, and the other 2,189,740 people in Riverside County, fireworks and contraband were synonymous. Fireworks of all kinds are illegal here in San Diego County as well. That should  mean that I never have to deal with them, but …

One summer, when I was around 10 or 11, we went to visit my cousins in Utah ... again … It was right around the Fourth of July, and we had a bunch of time to kill. My cousins lived a few blocks from K-Mart, so we walked down there since we had nothing else to do. When we got there, my cousins started looking at all of these fireworks, picking out which ones they were going to buy. My gut sank. “Do their parents know that they are buying fireworks? Do the police know that K-Mart is selling fireworks?! How am I going to explain this to my mom when I have to call her from the county jail?!”

There was this kid I knew in high school. He was notoriously mischievous. Somehow, he got ahold of a dresser drawer full of fireworks from Mexico. We went on a camping trip in Joshua Tree, and he brought some of these miniature, twirling arsonists with him. When he brandished those things, all I could picture was the entire national park going up in flames; no one would ever be able to visit Joshua Tree again, as it would simply be a bare, scorched, moonscape.

Last year, someone gave my kids some sparklers to play with on the Fourth of July. I spent the entire time those things were burning trying to keep myself from flipping out. My 7-year-old was holding a barely-under-control ball of fire six inches from his face. That is insanity!

I know that I am some sort of “prude,” and that I only feel this way because I haven’t been around fireworks enough or something. But, I am still a nervous wreck when I see those tiny sparks flying all over the place. Instead of enjoying the excitement and celebration, I keep picturing the neighbor’s dead lawn bursting into flames, which then leads to chain a reaction of the entire city burning down.

Legend has it that a cow started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. If a cow can do it, why not spinning bits of fire in the driveway?

Happy Fourth of July, y’all.