July 4th was going to be different this year; my good friends M&S (who finally tied the knot on Pi Day this year, featuring that number prominently in many ways, in a private ceremony officiated by S's two gorgeous and amazingly intelligent grown daughters - mazel tov, youse guys!) ...anyway, my good friends M&S -- who also include the rest of us crazies as friends -- both won tickets in a raffle at work for coveted spots at DOL in downtown DC to see the fireworks... and immediately turned around and said, "We have five extra tickets, why don't you all come down and join us for the fireworks?"
We haven't seen the big National Independence Day Celebration on the Mall downtown in person for many years; our last trip was pre-China and ended with a long, soggy, tired slog through a rainstorm through DC until we finally found a Metro station with just enough space for us to squeeze onto the platform, only to find out that they'd decided to start the fireworks show anyway sometime around the moment we first set foot on homeward-bound train. Up 'til then July 4th always included a trip into DC for the festivities. It was a lot easier when Dad still worked; we'd drive down to State, then pile out of the car with all our stuff while Dad used his ID to park in the garage under the building, and we'd walk to Constitution Gardens and spread out our blankets for the evening. Once Dad retired from State, we used various methods involving Metro and/or our car, but it began to get much more difficult with all the post-9/11 security checks and somehow the crowds kept getting bigger & more difficult to deal with... so that long, wet, rainy night was the last. We quickly discovered that we could easily get nice spots and a really good show on the UM College Park Campus, so that was "it" until this year.
Or so it seemed. The closer we got to the holiday, the more issues seemed to pop up, the more questions there were, the worse the weather forecast became, and everything seemed to be getting steadily more complicated. By the time the 3rd rolled around, I needed a little mood booster... and got an unexpected bit of help from the country club adjacent to my neighborhood.
I was sitting in the living room around 9pm when there was a loud explosion outside. I froze on the couch, remembering how the last time I'd heard that sound it was followed shortly by nearly a dozen emergency vehicles zooming down my street, but shortly afterwards there was another, and then another... and I realized I was hearing fireworks. I grabbed my camera and ran out my front door, and sure enough there were fireworks a-poppin' just over the row of houses between me and the club.
I was leaning against the streetlamp across from my house shooting photos for a good 20 minutes, during which a couple of cars stopped in the middle of the road and we all just watched the show until I could hear the post-finale cheers of the club's membership. I was still wondering if we'd be able to get to see any fireworks on the 4th proper, but went to bed that night feeling OK since I'd at least been able to see part of a show that evening.
The 4th dawned gray and rainy, but the weather began clearing early enough (but just a few minutes) for the organizers of the Independence Day events in our folks' neighborhood to decide they'd go ahead with everything as planned.
I had planned to shoot photos of the parade as usual, but very quickly ran into a glitch: the only people left to clean up the mess & move tables, chairs, etc. to the pool were my folks and one of their friends (none of whom are exactly spring chickens). I helped fold things up, pick things up, and load furniture into cars, then got to drive our friend's wife's very fancy car to the pool for her -- by which time the parade had long finished and everyone was on the pool grounds. I tried hard to look like I actually belonged there while marching through the gate past the lifeguards (Dude, did you look that young when you were a lifeguard there?) And enjoyed the people-watching and the silly magic show that kept most of the kids happily engrossed for a while.
My water-baby niece insisted on going into the pool, and since this year AJ remembered to bring swimsuits for both herself and her daughter, was soon playing happily in the pool with Mommy and some of the other kids. However, since her grandparents and uncle had to stay in the muggy (and buggy) air outside the pool, we were soon headed home to try to figure out lunch. It took some discussion, and some real careful consideration of the shape everyone was in, but we made the somewhat disappointing and somewhat embarrassing decision that going into DC for the fireworks, as exciting a prospect as it might be, was simply not a good idea. AJ & I both texted M&S (who were wonderfully gracious & understanding) and -- after still more discussion, during which AJ reminded everyone she didn't care what anyone else was doing but she WAS going to see fireworks that evening, one way or another -- we decided to return to good ol' Lot 1 at UMCP.
Once past the annual Argument Over Where To Park and the accompanying annual Disagreement Over Whether Or Not This Is Where We Sat Last Year, we were set up with our blankets, cooler, folding chairs, camera tripod, etc. etc. etc. and settled in to wait for dusk. AJ & I walked over to the bandstand with Miri and (sort of) danced to the music a while, then rejoined our folks only for Miri to decide (after passing all the port-potties twice) that now she needed to pee so she & AJ set off back to where we'd just come from.
|Married over 60 years and they still hold hands! :-)|
Finally, as the sun truly disappeared over the horizon, there was the usual single starburst shell, the band wrapped up their performance, and all of a sudden AJ had her fireworks!
Now, if you remember my posting about last year's fireworks at UMCP, you'll recall that they had some technical difficulties that led to the show suddenly just... stopping... after three or four too many shells blew up in their launch tubes. In fact, I overheard a couple of conversations around us in which people were openly wondering if they'd have to find a different venue for future fireworks shows if things went awry again this year. Happily, there was just one real "whoops" (accompanied by a lot of comments along the lines of, "oh, no, not again!" and, "I hoped they'd get it right this year!") and the shells just kept shooting up into the sky to generate lots of oohs and aahs from the crowd. Finally, after nearly 40 minutes of booms, bangs, pops, sizzles, and enough colors to make me think the company putting on the show was working extra-hard to make up for the previous year's major fail, the colored bursts and golden chrysanthemums segued into about a minute of solid sky-filling fire with staccato explosions that we could feel as strongly as hear, and the show closed out with a proper (and satisfying) finale.
We made amazingly good time getting home (helped, I'm sure, with the entire crowd being in a better mood than last year!) and all agreed that even without a rooftop vantage point in downtown DC, this year's Independence Day was one of the better ones in recent years.