By Susan DeLay
Sparklers are the appetizer to the 4th of July’s main meal—fireworks. My brother, sister, and I weren’t allowed to wave sparklers in the air like fire batons until we were about 10 years old and mature enough to handle matches and metal sticks dipped in gunpowder. Yikes.
Times have changed.
Beware the Sparkler
Today, any parent who lets his or her child get away with that kind of sparkler-waving behavior might be brought up on charges of child endangerment. Back then, no one knew any better. Kids were prohibited only from playing with aerial fireworks and rockets larger than one-half inch in diameter.
Everything else? Well, that was child’s play.
Sparklers now come with a list of warnings that make me wonder if they should be handled only by firemen and people wearing hazmat gear.
- Don’t touch a wire if it smells like a recently fired pistol because to do so might cause some discomfort. (Not to mention permanent scarring.)
- You may wave a sparker in front of you as long as you’re wearing eye protection and you don’t hit other people or objects. (Setting someone on fire could really put a damper on a holiday.)
- Never poke a lit sparkler in your eye or let it touch your face. (Personally, I think it might be wise to avoid touching any body part with a sparkler while it is on fire.)
- Under no circumstances should young children be allowed to touch, hold or throw a sparkler. (Apparently, it’s okay for an adult to throw one.)
- Never, ever, ever ignite a sparkler in the vicinity of highly flammable materials, like, say, hair spray, nail polish, alcohol, or gasoline. (That’s an automatic invitation to the EMS to join your party.)
Bombs Bursting in Air
When it comes to the 4th of July, our forefathers clearly took a cue from our national anthem. Lyrics like rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air imply that to celebrate our country’s birthday without explosions is treason.
Fireworks gave me nightmares until I was well past voting age. At dusk, our parents loaded us into the station wagon—a precursor to the minivan—and away we’d go to the nearest pyrotechnic show.
I’m sure the displays were breathtaking, but all I recall is loud explosions that were way too close for comfort. As a fourth grader, I wondered what possible reason my parents had for driving the family into a war zone and then applauding the bombing. While everyone else ooohed and aahed, our Cocker Spaniel and I cowered in the back of the car with our heads buried under a blanket. I plugged my ears, cried, and trembled in terror at every blast. I prayed. “God, if you get me out of this alive, I will never pick another fight with my brother or sister, and I will eat every vegetable on my plate. Even the cooked carrots.”
Oh, Say Can You See?
It took years, but I, more or less, conquered my fear of fireworks and can now observe a nighttime display without earplugs, a bulletproof vest, and a priest standing by to administer Last Rites.
These days when someone asks, “Oh, say can you see?” I can answer, “Yes, I can.”
But from a distance, thank you.
Susan DeLay is from the Buckeye State where she took her first paying job at the age of 15, writing a newspaper column called Teen Talk. She lived in the Chicagoland area for 20-some years before giving away her shovel and ice scraper and moving to The Villages.
An industry veteran in publishing services, PR, and media relations, Susan wrote “DeLayed Reaction,” a newspaper column, for 25 years. The column is now a blog at www.susandelay.wordpress.com.
She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, The Florida Writers Association, Pen, Paper & Pals, The Writers League of the Villages, and Working Writers Critique Group. She is currently learning that poems don’t have to rhyme and is working on a novel entitled “Saving Jesus.”