One summer, when my daughter was about 2, we came home from our annual family camping trip at Bass Lake on the Fourth of July, tired of the crowds, tired of sleeping on the ground and ready for a shower. By the time we descended into the valley, it was twilight. My little girl woke up in the back seat and looked out the window, astonished at the view from the top of Guadalupe Mountain on Highway 140, and even more surprised when I pointed out the fireworks in the sky.
From there on the trip home was one of wonder. From Planada all the way into Merced, random fireworks could be seen everywhere we looked. Along side streets we could see clusters of folks setting off ground fireworks. It was definitely a special night.
When we arrived in Merced, our street was like a war zone. We could barely turn into our alley, let alone get around the home fireworks displays. We were still new to the neighborhood at that time. I love fireworks, and so does my daughter, so after we unpacked we went back outside to our front doorstep to watch what was left of the night. It would have been strange to take a chair uninvited down the street to the big party at the corner.
While walking my dogs every night over the next year, I got to meet many of the people on the block, and strangers became friends. The Fourth of July stopped being an unnerving war zone and became a big block party of fireworks displays.
We could see as far as the end of the second block and the small parties held by the apartment residents. Across that street we could see a cul-de-sac blocked off to allow a block party firework display held by its residents.
On our street of duplexes we now knew almost every resident by sight, at least, and watched their little individual family fireworks displays. We could almost tell by the style and sequence which package of fireworks each family had purchased. The fun was at the end of the block, at our old apartment complex, where we still knew residents who didn't mind us bringing our chairs and watching the group display.
Families' individual boxes of fireworks were combined and lit by the kids. Oh, it was still a war zone, but at least we were now on the side of the "friendlies"!
We almost miss that now since we've moved to a quiet neighborhood in the foothills. Almost. We have a view of the valley from our deck. The holiday is just as fun, with a twist. Now we can see in the distance the official fireworks displays put on by Merced, Atwater and Turlock, and, at a distance, Modesto.
Fireworks got closer when we helped the Don Pedro Soccer Association park cars at the fireworks display held at Lake Don Pedro. From our position on the hillside, the fireworks barge was clear and a mere 200 yards away. It was a much better view than my brothers and sisters got at their annual camping trip at Bass Lake!
Fireworks may they keep on being set off in honor and memory of those willing to defy tyranny. May everyone have a safe and sane holiday.
Holt is a landscape horticulture graduate of Merced College who now lives in Mariposa. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.