I spent every 4th of July of my childhood with cousins in my grandmother’s front yard (or on the roof of her chicken house) watching fireworks that were shot off from the county fairgrounds a few fields away.
Years passed and that tradition morphed into watching fireworks with friends at local parks, with daughters and neighbors alongside railroad tracks in St. Louis and, finally, to watching the explosions from folding chairs in the parking lot of the nursing home where my parents spent their last years.
The common thread being that there were always fireworks. Even on the few occasions that I didn’t make the effort to get out and see them, I was enveloped by the sound of them.
My oldest grandson is five and has seen fireworks on the 4th only once. His parents may dress him in red, white and blue to celebrate the day, but he has little expectation of fireworks.
Instead, this year he asked me, “When is Mexico’s birthday? And when is India’s?”
India is the next country he’ll be moving to. As a child of diplomats who move every few years, he’s having a far different childhood than the one of few changes that I had.
His mall Santas, if they can be found, look different in every country. His comfort foods change from mac and cheese to quesadillas to curry. The languages and accents that he hears at school vary from move to move.
Most days I’m convinced that the trades-offs from such a nomadic life are worth it.
That, on balance, what my grandson gains from the exposure to different cultures will serve him better than my own memories of doing the same thing, in the same way, every year. That the threads of his childhood will end up knitting a more vibrant sweater than my own. One that is no less warm and comfortable.
Still, every once in a while, I find myself wishing I could give him fireworks.