The Fourth of July is always a special day. It brings back memories of my childhood, in western Nebraska. It was always hot. It never seemed to rain. And fireworks were legal. My friends and I would happily try out every manner of explosive. We tried out everything from simple firecrackers, to fountains, to pop-bottle rockets. Sometimes we enjoyed the bang. Sometimes, being the boys that we were, we just had to try out the explosive power. Sometimes it was sticks piled together, or perhaps toy soldiers.
As the afternoon shadows grew longer, Mom and Dad would gather the four of us into the car, and we would drive to a small farming town, Dalton, Nebraska. This small town had a wonderful fireworks display. We would set in the grass, or on the hood of the car. We would oooooh and awwwwwwwh, wishing it would go on forever.
As with all young boys, I aged. The jury is still out as to whether I have grown up. But, I have never lost my love and delight for fireworks.
For the last several years, Marian and I have watched the fireworks at Shoreline, an open air concert facility built by the late Bill Graham. On the 4th of July, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra plays a selection of tunes, with a nod to the birth of our nation. Afterwards, they put on a fireworks display. We were delighted that Elizabeth, our daughter, and David, our son, were able to come with us.
Marian and I enjoyed the music. We were familiar with much of the music. In the first half, we heard the theme from the Magnificent Seven, among others. In the second half, the conductor pushed deeply into John Williams. We listened to the theme from Superman, Jurassic Park, and ET. We heard other music, as well.
When the concert began, about a third of the seats were empty. As the concert went on, they slowly filled up. Many of the late comers were loud, rude, and clueless about proper behavior at a live concert. The late comers were obviously there for the fireworks, not the music. I felt ashamed for them, hoping the musicians on stage did not notice.
Finally, the music was over. The sky was dark enough. And it was time for fireworks. We had carefully picked our seats to give us a good view. We were on an aisle. We were about three quarters of the way up in the paid seats. Some of the towers were in the way, but, generally, we had a good view. We soaked it in. David and Elizabeth had chosen to sit on the lawn to watch the show. All of us enjoyed the show.
We were dazzled by the fireworks. Some of them were quite familiar. Others were new. The colder colors, green and blue, seemed brighter than in past years. As we watched, a number of low flying aircraft go by. While there was no danger, it almost seemed as if some of the fireworks were aimed at them.
During the early part of the concert, the symphony played Star Wars music by John Williams. The bombastic brass section was a perfect accompaniment to the display overhead. I have forgotten the second music set. The third set was from Sousa. As the show neared its end, they moved into Stars and Stripes Forever. As the final, rousing passages were played, they lowered an enormous American flag to stage level, timing it to coincide with the end of the fireworks, and the last notes of the music.
We made our way out of the packed concert house. When we came, we parked about three miles from Shoreline, and rode our bikes. We got to our seats about five minutes before the music began. We threaded our way through the crowd, to where we had chained all four bikes together. From there, it was a fifteen minute ride along the trail, back to our parking spot. We were part of a long procession of bikes, riding in the left lane, passing countless pedestrians. We got to our car at 10:45. Many of the parked cars at Shoreline were waiting their turn. The last year before we started using bikes, we did not get out of the parking lot until midnight.
Once we got home, we broke out the chocolate cake Marian always baked for the Fourth. She always includes little American flags. If the cake cutter is polite, there is one flag for each piece of cake. If they are greedy, there are several flags for each piece of cake.
We talked, as families always do. Marian and I were so happy to have both of our children together, again. As they fill their lives with their own dreams and aspirations, it becomes harder and harder to get all of us together. I am reminded, with my own siblings, how rare that is, anymore. Gatherings are all the more special for it.