I love fireworks! So does my daughter.
Last year, the men in our family were total party poopers about going to the fireworks. In response, daughter and I took matters into our own hands, trekking out to the nearest display in Columbia. Thanks to our familiarity with the areas surrounding the Columbia Mall, we hatched a plan to park at the nearby high school and walk the extra mile and a half across the mall parking lots to the lakeside fireworks tucked behind The Whole Foods. Thus, when the show ended, we were ensured a speedy getaway, unlike many others who were unluckily parked bumper to bumper in the mall parking lots.
I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment when my physical therapist informed me quite bluntly that, thanks to my busted knee, the only fireworks I would be seeing this year would be those on PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth.” This was especially disappointing because, at one point earlier this year, my daughter and I had discussed the possibility of heading into D.C. to see the fireworks from the T.V. in person. The Fourth was on a Saturday, a fact which practically begs to be taken advantage of in the form of an adventure!
Going into D.C. for the Fourth on The Mall means packing up a cooler bag of food and steeling your nerves against a sea of tourists and locals. It means checking out the new exhibits at the National Museum of American History. It means seeing what was playing at the IMAX Theater at the Air and Space Museum. And, of course, it means staying and watching the fireworks with Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” playing from speakers somewhere in the background.
But, maybe not. It’s been awhile since I’ve done Independence Day at The Mall, and I’m sure it’s changed dramatically from the days of my young adulthood. One particularly fantastic summer, one of my best friends got a summer position at the National Academy of Sciences, which translated into free parking for a whole day of fun. Lunch with the statue of Albert -- Einstein, that is -- and then a many blocks hike up Constitution Avenue to the Capitol, stopping in at this and that museum along the way.
Unfortunately, the lengthy walks that an Independence Day in D.C. would entail were not in my stars. My physical therapist, in emphasizing that I wasn’t ready for strenuous fireworks walks, baldly stated the only way I could go to the fireworks was if I could guarantee a walk no more than 10 minutes. Hah! Not happening.
The only times I had such short walks was the half a dozen times I played baritone sax for a few community bands in the D.C. region. The most recent occurrence of such a happy fireworks happenstance was with the Columbia Jazz Band. We played an hour show in the early evening as part of the musical entertainment held on the lakeside stage every year before Columbia’s fireworks. Of course, band members were given preferential parking passes, allowing us to park at what was then the Rouse Building and is now - tada! -- The Whole Foods.
My kids, the two older ones then in their first years of college and the youngest in middle school, all tagged along, partly to see their mom play, largely to enjoy the fireworks. Our percussionist and band manager were actually glad to see my kids and put them immediately to work, asking them to help move equipment from the vehicles to the stage. In exchange for being roadies to the band, my kids enjoyed premium free parking, but more importantly to them, premium seating to the fireworks. All in all, definitely worth the effort to procure my annual fix of music and fireworks!
But, I hear the muttering from afar. Music and fireworks? Is that all you can talk about? Why should those matter? What do they have to do with the spirit of Independence Day? Actually, quite a lot, as I was vividly reminded earlier this week with a live production of “1776, The Musical” at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Towards the end of the second act, John Adams vents his frustrations with his wife Abigail in the song “Is Anybody There?” The song’s lyrics incorporate his amazing prophecy from a letter written on July 3rd, stating that the adoption of the Declaration of Independence “will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illumination, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”
So, while this Fourth of July may be quieter than many of the ones I’ve had in the past, I don’t think I’ll mind. It sucks that my knee is out of commission, but it reminds me that I have good health insurance to pay for a physical therapist to help me heal. It sucks that I’ll have to stay at home to watch the fireworks, but it reminds me that I have a roof over my head and a few other luxuries, like a T.V. And, while it sucks that my daughter won’t be home to celebrate Independence Day with us, it reminds me that I raised a strong and independent daughter who is doing just fine.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Hope you have a great one.
To further your Independence Day reading, an incredibly affecting poem about freedom, war, and sacrifice can be found here.
original photo credit: Flickr