Last night I sat on the beach, the last streaks of sunshine slipping away. I was sitting on a blanket, my family and good friends around me. We were waiting, chatting, joking. I held half a Casa Cuba cigar in my hand. Then it came—the sound of repeated thumps out from the water. We cheered, and then smiled as the first of the fireworks soared into the night sky, lighting up the evening.
That sound, that sight, the smell of smoke—it all brought me back in an instant. The Fourth of July has always been a family affair for me and so many others. Yesterday it was a party near the water followed by a professional and spectacular fireworks show. As a young boy, the fireworks show was homegrown, a simpler but no less thrilling affair.
Back then there would be a party—hamburgers, hot dogs, cold domestic beers for the adults, icy sodas for kids like myself—and when the lights began to dim the crowd would move to the cul de sac. Other families would gather, and a few of the men would come out with boxes of fireworks as the mothers passed out sparklers to kids like myself. We were the pre-game show while the adults set up whatever fireworks they had managed to come by that year—fireworks were illegal where I grew up, but all turned a blind eye on this day. Then it would begin. Perhaps my father would toss a string of Black Cat firecrackers to kick off the celebration, the wick lit by the ash of his cigarette. Bottle rockets launched from empty beer bottles would continue the show, along with a cavalcade of Roman candles. If we were lucky, a silver jet would spin into the sky, kicking sparks for what seemed like a mile, or someone would light a Saturn missile battery, its red meteors howling as they flew erratically and impressively.
Yesterday we smoked cigars, had a few beers, ate delicious food and caught up with friends, many that we just don't see as often as we should. One good pal shook his head as he smiled, marveling at how the kids had grown so much bigger than the year before. What once seemed like a group of young children was now a mass of young adults, kids growing as tall as their parents.
The Fourth of July is about family, friends and country. It's a time to reflect and relax, to feel lucky about how far we've come and to celebrate what we have. As I walked away from the fireworks show with my family, taking the last puffs from my excellent cigar, I felt lucky indeed.