I took a seat in the metal rocking chair outside my grandparents’ loft, gently swaying back and forth. Through the metal bars of the railing, I saw the grand old church below, small yellow lights illuminating the stained-glass windows. A light breeze blew; stars twinkled high above; the church parking lot was empty and silent, save for the single, glossy bulk of a black car lurking in the shadows. But all around there was noise—the booming explosion of fireworks bursting through the cracks in the wall, echoing in my ears like the distant rumble of thunder in a summer storm.
I sighed, staring at the horizon where a dark cloud of smoke pulsated from the light of the fireworks I could not see. It seemed as though we weren’t going to have a true Fourth of July this year.
“Liam, time to go,” Dad called, and I stood up, casting one last wistful glance at the disappointingly blank skyline.
We bid a quick farewell to my grandparents, wishing them a happy Fourth, and then trooped down the staircase to the ground floor. No one spoke. Everyone seemed to understand that we had missed the celebration.
As we were getting in the car, my younger sister Amy asked aloud, “Where are the fireworks?”
“You see those buildings?” Mom said. “If they weren’t there, we might be able to see them. They’re over by the freeway.”
The car pulled out into the street, and we started home.
“I’m going to take the 210 home,” Dad said. “We might be able to see the fireworks from there.”
The car turned onto a small side street, which opened up into a bigger avenue. Dad spun the wheel, and we turned right.
“I see them!” Amy shouted. “I see the fireworks!”
My heart leaped. Half hidden by trees, great bursts of color ballooned in the night’s sky. Fireworks.
The light in front of us turned green, and the car turned onto the freeway. From here, the fireworks were even more visible. It was wonderful.
“Look at that,” Mom said, pointing to the shoulder. There, a line of cars had stopped, and I could see the faint silhouettes of people getting out to watch the fireworks show.
“Dangerous,” Dad said.
I craned my neck to see the last of the fireworks as we rounded a bend. A beautiful green spark shot like a rocket into the air, exploding into a shower of red, white, and blue rain.
“Look!” Amy squealed. “More fireworks!” She pointed out the front window to where a red firework was bursting.
“And there’s another one,” Mom said, turning to the left, where a group of blue sparks ascended into the sky, bursting into a fountain of color.
“How many shows do you think there are?” I asked aloud, chuckling. This was amazing.
We kept going, listening to the pop of firecrackers going off, and the distant boom of the fireworks. All around us, fireworks burst from unseen corners. It was amazing and beautiful.
And then suddenly, as we left the suburbs and ascended into the foothills, the fireworks stopped. The distant booms and rumbles and pops faded into the distance, and it seemed as though that was the end.
But it was only the beginning.
We drove in silence for a few minutes. Amy nodded off to sleep, her soft head leaning against my shoulder. In the front seat, Mom and Dad conversed in low tones, and I sat still, eyes half closed, remembering the beauty of the fireworks we had just seen.
The car rounded a bend, and there was the city, stretched out before us. I could see each major street, lined with the ever-changing glow of car lights and street lights. It was magnificent, almost as wonderful as the fireworks.
And then in the brightness of the city, a single flash of red ballooned in the darkness, like a flower unfurling its petals on the first day of spring. It took me a minute to recognize what it was. And then I realized it was a firework.
I shook Amy awake. “Look at this!” I whispered excitedly, pointing out the window to where a green chrysanthemum of color was bursting over the city. Her eyes widened when she realized what it was, suddenly wide awake.
“Fireworks!” she squealed, hugging me fiercely but never tearing her eyes from the scene unfolding. Even though, from this distance, they were barely the size of the toenail on Amy’s littlest toe, they couldn’t have pleased her more. They were like precious sparkling jewels, glimmering dazzlingly in the light. Or maybe they were the sparks from a wizard’s wand as he fought off dark magicians with spells and trickery. The faraway fireworks show was fantastic, and fantastical.
As we exited the freeway, I craned my neck to see one last green firework exploding in the sky. Only three hundred and sixty-five days from now there was a city of fireworks to be explored once more. I smiled. I couldn’t wait for next year.