I hadn’t planned to buy any fireworks this year. With the economy being a bit scary, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been shaving bits off the family budget. Fireworks – sadly – fall in the “miscellaneous expenses” category in Quicken; that was the first to go. However, I didn’t think we would be denied fireworks on the Fourth of July. There are usually a couple of good shows in Belvidere. If the city’s show isn’t all that spectacular, I can always count on an exciting – if a bit erratic – display from my neighbors after they’ve polished off a case of beer or six.
I keep forgetting Belvidere doesn’t celebrate the Fourth of July. Instead we have a four day festival that (sometimes) coincides with Independence Day. A few years ago, Heritage Days wrapped up on the Fourth of July. They closed the main bridge downtown. We all went out there with lawn chairs and watched a brilliant display flowering over the Kishwaukee River. It was beautiful. This year, however, Heritage Days were last weekend. So much for professional fireworks.
We’ve had a good run of crazy neighbors over the years. My dad’s neighbor Maynard and his twin brother (not-Maynard) used to come back from Wisconsin with a station wagon full of fireworks for Independence Day. This was the 1980’s; when a station wagon still denoted a car with the same square footage as a battleship from World War II. Later on when we lived in Hanover Park, our neighbors would celebrate with a simulated nuclear attack on the neighboring suburb of Bartlett. It would take us three days to pry the dog out from under the kitchen table. And here in Belvidere, our neighbors spend their weekends drinking and shooting off fireworks. They start as soon as there’s a dry Friday night in the spring and keep at it until the last Saturday night before the snow flies.
You can imagine my surprise when – come 2:00 in the morning – I had no thunderous blasts rattling the window, no debris raining down on the roof. In fact, I didn’t hear anything: no hooting, no whoo-ing, no profanity. Even the hair band music that thumps off the siding of the houses in the cul-de-sac behind us was silenced. I felt like stalking over there, waking them up out of their blackouts and telling them how disappointed I was. Didn’t they know this was bigger than any mere kegger? They were letting me down, my family down. Heck, they were letting America down.
Daniel decided to take things into his own hands. I picked him up from summer camp Friday night. He asked me if we could buy some fireworks. He had about seven dollars and change. I had about a dollar more than that. We strapped into the Corolla and drive north to the border; home of cheese, gifts and fireworks. We walked in and the gift shop area was empty. There was no one in the deli section either. The fireworks counter was doing a brisk business though. I grabbed a plastic basket and waded into the fray. It didn’t take long to figure out we were in over our heads. I suppose we could have pooled our money together and bought one of the rockets mounted behind the counter, but that would have been it. And it didn’t make us feel any better when little kids – half Daniel’s size – were lugging Roman candles taller than they were into line ahead of us.
I was despairing, but Daniel inspected every nook and cranny of the store. He found fifty cent boxes of snakes. I was going to buy a fountain that shoots out sparks for eight dollars. Daniel found a package of four for half that price. On top of that, they had a “buy one, get one free” offer. Daniel managed to fill a respectable portion of our basket for fifteen dollars. By my estimate, we should be able to light up the street in front of our house for a few minutes; long enough to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and maybe throw in a rousing rendition of “Welcome to the Jungle” as well.