Archive for Thursday, July 6, 2006

Fireworks anticipation yearlong

July 6, 2006

It was that time of the year when you were surrounded with the suffocating smell of smoke and loud noises. But what would the Fourth of July be without the fireworks?

As long as I have lived here, I've reveled in the joy of setting off those darned hazards and also been lucky enough to live in a city that permits them to be set off in the neighborhoods. Unfortunately, there are more and more cities banning their use.

I'm not sure of the history of fireworks and the Fourth of July but it stands alone as the most unique and probably the most anticipated holiday, next to Christmas, of course.

I grew up shooting fireworks -- albeit not at the scale we get in this country. In Malaysia, fireworks mainly consisted of sparklers, roman candles and everyone's favorite -- the fountains. Firecrackers were also a favorite, but not to the extent of the others.

We never had the "big boomer," or the ones that shoot way up in the sky and display its splendor. Those were reserved for special occasions and only set off by professionals.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered the many "big" fireworks I could set off when I came here. I was ecstatic. When I told my friends and family back home, they were envious of the liberty I had with the fireworks. Every Fourth of July, I would gear up and get some of those "big ones" and become a kid again in the excitement and anticipation. It never fails to wane. If anything, the thrill seems to become more addictive each year.

The one big difference in the attitude toward fireworks here is that people are more careful and cautious about how to use them -- especially the adults. When I was setting them off as a kid, I hardly had any adult supervision. Despite having fun doing crazy things, I never realized the risk I took while doing them. As a parent, now I'm more cognizant of the risk and try to guide my children in the art of setting off fireworks. Unfortunately, they seem to have the same kind of zeal I had when I was growing up, and it's a challenge to keep them within the boundaries that define safety. As my kids get older, they want to do the things I did, but probably should not have done.

There have been so many cases of injuries and accidents caused by fireworks. Most of them are because of neglect or overconfidence. It's hard to explain to your kid that it only takes one accident to seriously injure them when I had been doing the same thing all my life. Practicing what I preach is definitely not the modus oprenda here.

The importance of teaching safety and the proper way to set off fireworks is critical at an early age. This will ensure the knowledge they learn will be passed on. Unfortunately not every parent takes on this responsibility. I don't have scientific data to back this up, but I came to this conclusion after observing over the years: I can honestly say that in young kid's minds, safety is not the cool thing to do when setting off fireworks. The more daring you are, the more "expert" you become in the art of fireworks.

It is amazing, however, that some of the stupid things I did years ago, in a country half way across the world, are the same things that are done here. It's uncanny how children's minds and the sense of rebellion transcend cultural and ethnic differences. Lighting firecrackers in a trashcan or throwing them down sewers are stuff we lived for as a kid. One thing I have not seen here is cruelty to animals. As kids, my friends and I would look for frogs, toads, cats and dogs to throw firecrackers at and watch their reaction. The art of doing that called for stealth. Although we never intended to hurt any of the animals, we always found pleasure in seeing those animals fleeing for safety.

This Fourth of July is already history, and already I bemoan the long year ahead before I get to indulge in this pleasure again. I can't wait for that choking smoke to fill the air after a thousand firecrackers have been lit. I can't wait to hear the loud blast of sonic boom as the sky above is covered with pyro splendor. I can't wait to light that fuse again.

An aside: no animals were harmed or scared during this Fourth.

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