Unlike the last couple of years, AJ remembered to bring Miri's swimsuit along so the Pipsqueak happily joined our friend's brood (and a few other neighborhood kids) in the wading pool. Since she'd already begun taking swimming lessons, Miri happily splashed and splooshed and got her face down into the water (something she was never happy about doing in the past), and a grand time was generally had by all. (Yours Truly was happy to just sit and watch... I even borrowed some of Miri's spray-on sunscreen, although later redness proved I missed a few key spots.)
Our friend's son decided his stuffed monkey -- the one he sleeps with at night, of course -- also wanted to go swimming, so while she kept an eye on the not-so-small herd of splashing kids I alternately wrung Monkey out, pressed him flat, and left him laying in the sun to dry. (Turns out I done good; precious, fragile Monkey only had to spend a few minutes in the clothes dryer that evening to be able to help his young owner sleep soundly.) Another old family friend we've known since she & AJ were in class in elementary school together(!) came by with her son and everyone started reminiscing about old times while the kids ruckused in the pool. (Dude, is that a real word?)
Once we'd finished laying claim to a coupla dozen square feet of college real estate, we spent some time dancing to the live band, walked around crowd-watching a bit, and settled in for a quiet wait. We all realized we hadn't eaten dinner just a few minutes before the fireworks were supposed to begin. There was a bit of a mad scramble to get sandwiches made before we lost all daylight (and the fireworks began), and we didn't quite get the job done before the first shells were launched, but I can vouch for the fact that none of us went home hungry.
The fireworks show (hosted by the City of College Park, not U-MD) was, as usual, good. There were some shells we hadn't seen before, some with extra-bright colors, some creating new patterns, and some... Hey, waitaminit, didn't that one go off a little low? Anyway, there were batches of little golden shells and bursts of big red & blue shells and... Whoa, that one went off a LOT low... and huge chrysanthemum bursts and... Yikes, look out for the falling embers!
As you may have surmised, something just didn't seem right with the fireworks this year. With increasing frequency, we could see big starburst or chrysanthemum shells bursting long before they reached altitude, sometimes even going off before actually being launched. (After one particularly spectacular ground burst, a professional photographer who'd set up next to where I was standing asked, "Was that supposed to happen?" and as I replied, "I don't think so!" a second massive chrysanthemum shell blew up while still in its launch tube.)
The show continued, with lots of oohs and aahs accompanied by a slowly-increasing number of whoas, until... Well, it just stopped. No warning, no finale, no big finish -- just a couple of big shells going off right at ground level followed by dead silence. There was a quiet rumble of conversation as the crowd began wondering aloud what had happened and then all of a sudden all the parking lot lights were turned back on, a clear statement of "That's all, folks!" (We found out the next day that the show had been stopped because the shooters decided there were too many ground-level misfires to continue safely.)
We spent a little while engaging in a live-action game of "Frogger" in the sudden massive exodus from the parking lot as we shuttled our coolers, folding chairs, etc. from our spot back to where AJ had parked, then sat a while waiting for the traffic jam to ease. Eventually we made our way back to our folks' house, from where everyone dispersed to their respective houses for some much-needed sleep. As I said goodnight to Miri, she said she was sad there was no big finale but that she enjoyed the fireworks, and that our seeing them together made them special.
Fizzle or no fizzle, that was the real reason for the day, so we're all calling it a success (and one for the record books).