Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oh say can you see...and see...and see...and...

Remember being a kid, when fireworks used to mean something? Growing up, the Fourth of July was synonymous with all-day barbecues, staying up late, huddling together as a family on our quilted picnic blanket, and watching the once-a-year spectacle shoulder-to-shoulder with the entire neighborhood, oohing and awing in unison. Pair the show with a local band or a synchronized radio broadcast, and even the most jaded teenager would be stunned into a patriotic silence. Collectively we were part of something bigger, something great.

I fear that my own kids won't have this experience.

In my Littleton neighborhood, which I adore, it seems that almost every community event is capped off with fireworks. Last week's Main Street Block Party actually had two shows - one at 8:30 PM and a second at 10. Awesome, right?

Not so much.

What was once special has become commonplace. Instead of a reason for excitement, these too-frequent shows have become a nuisance that wakes my sleeping children and causes my dogs anxiety all summer long. I don't understand the reasoning behind it. Is it our supermarket-conditioned mentality, where seasons are rendered meaningless and anything we could possibly want is available to us at all times? Is it a collective fear of unassuming moments, where it's not enough if the capstone of a gathering is as simple as seeing our favorite barista freed from the coffee counter and out with her family? Do we always need to wow, to awe, to inundate with the most sparkle, the most noise, possible? Or maybe it started as a singular idea - let's add fireworks to the Western Welcome Week festival! - that grew in popularity until the number of firework displays offered in my city has spiraled out of control.

Whatever the case may be, in my community or yours, I would like to take a stand and reclaim fireworks for monumental occasions only. A presidential inauguration, the final game of the World Series, the celebration of our nation's independence. Since most cities host neither of the former events, let us reserve our fireworks for the latter. I extend a challenge to my city, and yours, to suspend all scheduled fireworks between this Fourth of July and next.

What would fill the void?

Let's start by talking financials. Assume that the average non-Fourth of July fireworks display costs $3,000. Instead of a local credit union sponsoring the fireworks at the next neighborhood chili cook-off, for example, they could come up with an "in lieue of" donation. In lieue of fireworks, ABC Credit Union has renovated Main Street USA Park and donated a new jungle gym. Or perhaps they would rather buy a parcel of land and gift it to the local Open Space holding. Or maybe they would want to award a scholarship to a local high school student, or pay to renovate a local business or historical building in need of a facelift.

What if this idea caught on?

Local businesses would compete over who could come up with the most creative and beneficial use of their previously allocated fireworks budgets. This electric spirit of giving would catch on within the community and people would start submitting their own ideas for consideration and participating in the discussion concerning this new distribution of funds. Invested citizens might even start looking for opportunities within the local community to donate time and money of their own...

What if, and this is the big one, our year of firework abstinence resulted in a renewed sense of community and culminated in a Fourth of July exhibition in the summer of 2013 that got the neighborhood excited again? After a year of smaller, more intimate, gatherings we'd be ready to come together en masse and make some noise.

Can't you see it?

We gather up our families, pack the blue Igloo coolers that look just like the ones our parents had, stake an early claim on some prime sky-viewing real estate at the park on the hill, and then while away the afternoon throwing a frisbee, eating hotdogs, and psyching ourselves up for an event that we have been denied for a whopping 364 days. Even the adults are little-kid giddy with anticipation. It takes forever for the sun to set, but as it finally gets dark and the first whistling rocket is shot into the air, we look to our left and right and see that the America we are celebrating tonight is the America we can find right here in this park. As the first color-filled explosions light up the sky, casting their purple and green glow onto the upturned faces of our children, we swell with pride and gratitude for the life we are able to claim as our own.

I want this. I want this moment that is unique enough to make a memory. What do you say, Littleton? Are you with me?

1 comment:

Claudia said...

What a wonderful small-town, community feel that would add to the big city. Good luck.

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