Of Bottle Rockets and Roman Candles

July 15, 2020

I believe I missed the memo about the mandatory nightly fireworks lately. The showy displays of pyrotechnics happening all over the place are either a) a defiantly festive response to our current state of woe or b) set off by people who get a perverse kick out of making babies scream and dogs cower under beds. Any other rationale that has eluded me?

I confess that I’m not a huge fan of cherry bombs and firecrackers, even when they go off at the proper times (which are July 4th and New Year’s Eve. Period.) Long ago, when our brood was young, the Rollins family would treat the town of Lewes to a huge display over the Delaware Bay, right off the beach. We would dutifully drag the small Seyfrieds there, spread a blanket on the sand, and wait for the spectacle (as the bugs ate us alive and we dodged the sparklers being hurled dangerously around by our fellow beach sitters.) By the time the rockets and their red glare showed up, our kids were either asleep or terminally cranky, so we usually missed 99% of the show.

My first mission trip, and several thereafter, involved being away on the Glorious Fourth. In 2004, our group joined the thousands who arrived at Mount Rushmore at midday so that we could nab a “choice” parking spot only two miles from the park. Spoiler alert: one can see and appreciate (or not) the giant stone Presidential Faces in about 20 minutes. After that, we ate overpriced bison burgers from the concession stand, and waited. And waited. Shortly after 6 PM (and hours before dark), I volunteered to drive whoever was ready to leave, back to Rapid City, where we were staying. Most of the youth came along with me. Those who toughed it out later said it was awesome—but they also said the overwhelming crush of humanity leaving afterwards, was not. After a decade-long ban on fireworks there (sensibly, because of the huge amount of dry vegetation all around the mountain), they were back this year, sizzling and popping for five presidents (four carved, one breathing) and a horde of socially proximate folks. Sigh.

Later July Fourths were spent in Alaska, Alabama, New York City and Texas. In each case, we were in the middle of mission trip weeks, and by then all horribly sleep-deprived. But of course nothing would do but go find the nearest booms and flares, and stare up at them for what seemed like eons, before returning to the “comfort” of sleeping bags on a church floor.

This year, I observed Independence Day, independent of all but my immediate housemates. Even without fireworks, it’s been a pretty explosive year so far, and I doubt things will calm down anytime soon. And so, as darkness fell over East Oreland, I sent a little prayer Heavenward, perhaps hitching a ride on a Roman Candle:

Please God, get us all safely to 2021. THAT will be something to celebrate.



    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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