Last night was my first Independence Day spent by myself. I think, anyway, for the past few years I've spent the holiday with some surrogate family or another, eating an ungodly amount of food and "oohing" and "aaahing" at the Ventura fireworks, which, incidentally, have been declining in quality as time goes by. Or maybe their magic is just lost on me now. Anyway, I'm starting to realize maybe I'm not that much of a holiday person, I would probably be fine just passing over most of them, but last night reminded me of how thrilling Independence Day actually is. Even though I didn't eat very much food (cheetos) and got punched in the eye by an old lady.
Amanda and many of the family members I cohabitate with departed for a Lutheran church camp on Sunday, leaving me by myself for the 4th (there's one daughter left, and grandma and the parents, but I didn't want to encroach on their funsies. and I don't know them very well, weirdly), with work starting at 10. I slept for much of the day, avoiding the heat of peak hours, then put on some blue eye shadow and my friend's "greek week" t-shirt (yeah, let all the north dakotans think I'm a sorority girl..) and forayed out into Dickinson to see if I could find some fireworks. Some asking around directed me to the parking lot near the community center. It faces the athletic field of the college here which is apparently where the show happens. I got there around 8, downed my caffeine intake for the night and waited as I watched the whole area fill up with cars.
Now, apparently the way they do it here isn't so much selecting a single spot to set off fireworks from. What they do instead is set off fireworks down the entire street, on both sides. So you have many fireworks going on in front of you, behind you, and down the street, rather than a giant cluster of big fireworks going off in the center of the sky.
THIS. WAS. MAGIC.
On top of this, the locals don't really care so much about safety rules, so they bring their own fireworks/crackers, and set them off at will to match the other fireworks. So you have a bunch of sparklers, crackers, and those amazing floating lights (much like tiny, glowing hot air balloons) being released constantly and throughout the show. On top of THIS, you have people still driving down the street, adding their flurry of headlights and cheers to the brigade. One man in a giant red truck even attached a huge American flag to his truck bed and then proceeded to drive back and forth up the street as if he were a part of a parade. Kids were running all over the place, every corner of the street was populated, and I was just filled with so much joy and excitement. It felt like, for the first time since I was eight, probably, like the fireworks were really magic again. The rocket's red glare. The bombs bursting in air. Of course, it did bring to mind the anthem, which always, admittedly, brings tears to my eyes. The fact that we choose to celebrate our hard-won independence* with actual rockets is such an appropriate tradition.
Anyway. I sat on the hood of my car (actually, Amanda's car, as mine is broken at present), watching the gorgeousness and listening to the appropriate music I could summon up on my outdated ipod-- American Pie and American Trilogy by Elvis Presley-- which, by the way, makes for a GRAND fireworks-watching soundtrack. At about 9:45 I had to tear myself away and drive to work, and as I did I discovered to my delight that the relentless North Dakotans did not stop with the athletic field/street/land. There were fireworks everywhere. I rolled the windows down and let them chase me.
I don't care if Old Terror punched me in the face. I love it here anyway.
*(and I'm not just talking about the revolutionary war. it's my perspective that we are actually a pretty violent country, but also that if something is not worth being at least WILLING to fight for then there is little point to life. I feel like we are STILL fighting for freedom and for the power to remain united. I feel like now more than ever the country is ripping at the seams and there is so much in-fighting and hatred within that the greatest risk we face is falling apart. I like to think we can stick with it. I like to think about that farmer in the dust bowl of the 30's, looking over the land and saying "Yeah, times are hard, but y'know. We're American and we'll shine through." I think it's wrong to contend that one's country is the greatest of all (nationalism is obviously a dangerous thing), but America does have such a history of strength that I really admire, and am ultimately very proud to be a teeny tiny part of. Regardless of all flaws.