Bad Dad: Kids should endure the duds to truly enjoy fireworks

July 01, 2011|By Matt Murray

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and I've been requested to secure tickets for the family to go watch "professional" fireworks. And I don't like it.

Growing up in Southern California in the 1970s, the Fourth of July was a special time of year. For one night a year, I was allowed to stay up late so I could watch my dad nearly blow off his hand lighting "safe and sane" fireworks.

Our house, in the middle of the block, was the natural meeting place for our neighbors. My mom would position our Hi-Fi stereo speakers so she could blast John Philip Sousa records out the windows.


My dad would barbecue early in the evening, so we could have food ready to go by show time. Out came the old aluminum chaise chairs, old blankets and ice coolers. When it was dark enough, we would settle in for a fireworks display that was "better than last year."

The "better than last year" bit became a running gag in our house because the show rarely lived up to the buildup Dad would give at the fireworks stand.

Every year I'd go with him to the fireworks stand the day it opened, so we didn't miss out on the "good stuff." Even though my mother would tell him not to get carried away, she always relented because the Fourth was Dad's holiday.

Every year, there were always new pyrotechnics that would catch my old man's eye. Like the one year he bought a "killer bee" fountain, which I found is still available at some firework stands.

He described a display that seemed intriguing. After lighting the fuse, a titanic tornado of sparks would explode into the sky, then a dozen excited killer bees would be released, one by one.

I was convinced that I was going to be attacked by these bees, which apparently lived in hibernation in their cardboard cocoons all around this miniature explosive. I remember tapping on the tubes, trying to see if I could hear them. My dad came behind me and scared me in his big, booming voice, telling me not to tap on the firework, because it might explode. That was enough to set my nerves on edge.

When the time came to light off fireworks, the Killer Bee fountain was first up. I remember being scared enough to hide behind some lawn chairs. I tried to convince my mother to move my younger sister who was mere yards away, but she said it would be fine. I wasn't taking any chances. So I plotted my path from my current position in the front yard to inside the house, just in case those crazed bees headed my way.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles