We heard a scream, a pop, and then we saw a billion bits of fire catapulting out toward space — a confetti supernova. But then the party dimmed, depressed, fell back down to earth, bitter and half-conscious, like a crowd of drunk drivers heading home.
It was still a few days before the Fourth, but apparently the neighbors couldn’t wait. Somewhere past the tree line, they anxiously lit fuses and cheered. Although we couldn’t see them from the driveway, it was easy to imagine their silhouettes running from the sparks, crouching for cover then craning their necks upward, mouths open, trying to catch stardust on their tongues like snowflakes.
“You want to put that last bag of hops in?” Cody asked, lifting the lid off a boiling pot, letting its steam rise to meet him. We were making home-brew out in his garage, with just a burner, some malt and a little extra time on our hands.
We were creators, brewmasters, and we stood around the bubbling pot, breathing in its warm, sweet stink. And then we’d hear another whistle. And then we’d feel that thump echo in our chests.
And then we’d see the sky explode again.
“Puh-rrretty sure that’s illegal,” I said.
But really, who cared?
Everybody knows that fireworks transcend any state or city law. They make us American. They’re less a material thing than they are a force of nature, a reminder that we’re here because we cared enough, and fought enough and died enough to be here. Every burst is a beginning with an end; a triumph, with a tragedy; a life, and then a death.
Last year, I watched the fireworks on a beach, thinking about the future as waves crashed onto the surf. About 12 years before that, I watched them from outside a baseball stadium, so aware that I was the only one there without someone to hold. And when I was six or seven, we’d visit family in New York, and we’d set up lounge chairs on the street and watch my uncles blow up hundreds of dollars worth of sound of fury, just to impress the neighbors.
“Oh, pretty!” Molly said, a couple weeks ago, pointing out the window of a Daytona Beach bar at fireworks erupting over the water.
This is my favorite fireworks memory.
We were waiting for a group to arrive to celebrate former staff writer Matt Mencarini’s last weekend in town, and she grinned the biggest grin, as if we’d been surprised with our own private holiday. It was as if we each knew that we were experiencing a memory-in-process, like sentiment had somehow snuck us in through the back so that we could watch it work.
We didn’t say much, but then we didn’t need to. Soon, we knew, the group would arrive. The show would end. Matt would move away. And we would have to face reality again, without the gentle glow of booming thunder to dull it all down.
The moment, like everything, was fleeting. But it was ours.
This year, I know people who will be working the night shift on the Fourth of July, stocking shelves and punching numbers on cash registers. They’ll trade away this year’s display for minimum wage and a nametag.
But if they’re lucky, they’ll catch a glimpse or two of color reflecting off their storefront’s windows. And they’ll think of all their friends and family and everyone they’ve ever known, and how they’re all somewhere else in the world without them — probably somewhere better — and how each and every one is gazing up at the exact same sky. And how they’re all connected.
And then they’ll hear another scream outside. And then their chest will thump with the soothing crack of life unfolding.
Ormond Beach’s Fourth of July celebration, to take place in Rockefeller Gardens Park, Fortunato Park and the City Hall Plaza, will impact traffic and parking in the area.
A handicapped lot will be open near Bailey Riverbridge Gardens, on the northeast corner of Granada Blvd. and North Beach Street. Public parking is available behind City Hall, as well as in The Casements parking lot.
Piers and boat docks will close at 7 p.m.
North Beach Street will close from Granada Boulevard to Lincoln Avenue. South Beach Street will close from Granada to Division Avenue. Grove Street will close from Tomoka Avenue to Division Avenue. Other side streets within the event area may also be detoured or closed.
Free shuttle service will be available 6-9:45 p.m., over the Halifax River Bridge.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR