With a high of 88°F for the day, temperatures had settled into the mid-70s, promising a cool evening for the fourth of July fireworks. My mom, and technically me, were all set for the show. She settled into her lawn chair, a cool drink in hand when things began to change.
Fireworks have been around for more than 2000 years. During America’s first celebration in 1777, fireworks were all orange. It would be another 60 years before Italian inventors used strontium or barium to create the colors we are familiar with today.
Today, depending on the state you live in and the laws in place, Americans can set off their own fireworks, from sizzling sparklers to booming and screeching rockets that shake the windows in my house and my soul. I hate them all.
On July 4, 1970, my mother was preparing for the annual spectacle. The sun was about to set. The showmen were ready to begin their pompous noise. I had other plans.
My mother was nine months pregnant. Her doctor had given a July 3 due date. He had never been off by more than three days in his career of delivering thousands of babies. I was not going to spoil his record.
Long before I knew how badly animals reacted to the explosions, the effects the noise had on veterans, or its negative effects on the environment and humans, I hated fireworks. The booms shake my chest, making it hard to breathe. I tense up, become anxious, overwhelmed, panicked, and fear the next sound and what the percussive effects are going to do to me.
The booms make me feel unsafe. My heart rate increases. I can’t get comfortable. At home, I curl up on the couch, tense, waiting for it to be over. I have felt this way for 51 years. For the last 14 years, my neighbors have set their fireworks off outside my window. They are often within inches of my car. I can’t do anything to get them to move away from my car because I’m pent up in fear in my own home.
As my mom leaned back in her chair, readying herself to stare at the 1970 sky and celebrate the founding of our American nation, I decided it was time to show myself to the world.
A short drive later, my mother was at Horton Memorial Hospital. Labor had commenced. At 8:19 a.m., on July 5, the seven pound, eight ounce version of me took her first breath of fresh air. I had succeed in missing my first fireworks show.
“Yeah, brat,” My mother said, using her affectionate nickname for me. “You ruined my night.”
It certainly wasn’t the last one I ruined for her either.
Fifty-one years later, fireworks can still suck it.