No, I’m not going to give you the entire history of fireworks (wasn’t China involved, a long time ago? Or was that gunpowder?) Since the Fourth is upon us, I’ve been thinking about my memories of fireworks. Then I had to consult with my daughter, who’s visiting, about what she remembers.

I’m told there are people (children and adults) who are frightened of the loud noises. Not me. I love it when I can feel the blast with my body. Are kids required to wear ear protection these days? (My hearing is intact, thank you.)

Fireworks display

Here are the highlights I remember:

—      When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who lived nearby and whose parents threw a Fourth of July Party each year. With fireworks. Modest ones, of course, but they made a big boom. If I recall correctly, nobody ever got hurt and nothing caught on fire, and we attended the party for years.

—      When I was in high school, my town held a fireworks display on the way out of town, in a field past the high school. There was never enough room to park in that neighborhood, so you ended up walking the last half-mile or so, laden with blankets or beach towels (and probably insect repellent). Quite a few people from the town showed up and reclined on the grass enjoying the show.

—      When I was doing research in France (after college, before I was married) I happened to be there for Bastille Day. I was staying in the city of Angers, where there is a river, and the town shot off the fireworks over the river. What surprised me most was the fact that the fireworks made noises (not just bangs)—mostly whistling sounds (if you want to know how this works, see this ). I’ve always wondered why we don’t do more of that in the U.S., but I suppose we go for size rather than subtlety.

—      When I lived in Cambridge (MA) for a few years I shared a ground floor apartment with two other people. One year we decided to go up to the roof of the building (I think it was five or six stories high) to watch the fireworks. We had an amazing view of the Charles River—and saw the fireworks set off by three different towns along the river, all at the same time! It was amazing (I wish I had taken pictures).

—      Now the town where I live sets off its fireworks in a small park directly behind the fire station (smart choice!). I haven’t actually attended one of these events, but I can certainly hear it and often see the lights from the second floor our our house, since it’s happening only a few blocks away.

—      My daughter was fireworks-deprived for much of her early life, something I felt badly about. But the gods were kind. One summer we were on our way back from a family trip in Indiana, I think, and we stopped for the night at a hotel somewhere along the way back to (then) Pennsylvania—I’m not even sure where. After dinner we were hanging out in our room and, lo and behold, a fireworks display started and we had the perfect view from our window. It wasn’t even the Fourth! Check one more item off our bucket list: show daughter fireworks!

One more small note: my father always kept a small leather box on his dresser, filled with those little one-inch fireworks—individual ones, not strings of them. (My sister and I were never allowed to mess with them.) He took pleasure in taking a frozen orange juice container, sticking one of those firecrackers under it, lighting it, and sending the can soaring. He even taught me how to do it (yes, I still have all my fingers). Luckily we had a very large rock to use as a blast-off point, and plenty of room in the yard. No mishaps.

Firecracker small

What about you? Did the loud noises scare you? Or did you revel in the excitement, the lights and colors? What do you remember best?