The first Fourth of July we lived in Kansas City, my husband was in Puerto Rico with a baseball team so I was on my own for the firework festivities. I wasn't willing to take the kids to a fireworks show by myself, but I was also not willing to have a Fourth of July without fireworks.
Not knowing much about fireworks and pretty sure that there must be some laws limiting the types of fireworks in certain areas, I decided to do some homework before heading to the fireworks stand. This neighborhood we'd just moved into was within the Kansas City city limits, but fell in a suburban school boundary. Consequently every third house belonged to either a policeman or a fireman.
I imagined my kids and I in the driveway with our fireworks, them crying frantically while their mommy gets a ticket for illegal celebration from a cop neighbor. Or something like that. (I have an active imagination.) I didn't want that to happen, so to be on the safe side, I googled what the restrictions were for the area in which we lived.
When we got to the Black Cat stand by the highway and saw all the variations of fountains, cakes, candles, and rockets, I forgot everything I'd just researched. I asked the stand man to help me find "something legal." My kids clamored for the novelty items with packages that looked like toys. The man smiled a funny smile when he assured me that they were legal in Kansas City. I quickly bought them and left.
At home, the kids and I headed to the back patio (because I didn't want the cops to see us) to set our new purchases on fire. The snake grew slowly then stopped quickly, which made it look more like a charred caterpillar than a snake. We tried the next one, hopeful for a little more excitement. "Mom, these are boring," my 7 year old and 5 year old announced in unison as we watched a tank sputter across the cement.
When I was a kid, the ice cream truck only came around every once in a while. So rarely, in fact, that it was a real thrill for us to hear that ice cream truck bell in the distance. But the ice cream truck that came to our neighborhood in Kansas City came by three times every single day, maybe more. I am not kidding. When I would hear the irritating ice cream truck melody broadcast through the loud speaker mounted on top of the truck, I silently curse the ice cream man. He didn't care that I'd have to deal with hot, tired and, now, disappointed kids. But I did not curse him today.
"I hear the ice cream truck!," I announced, happy to divert my kids from the disappointing novelty fireworks and offer them frozen novelty treats instead. They ran ahead to the truck while I went inside to get the change. When I stepped out front, I saw our neighbors sitting in their camping chairs on their driveway, the dad throwing fireworks into the cul-de-sac for their girls to enjoy. My kids were much more engaged by their much more spectacular fireworks. After we'd stood there a while, admiring their show while eating our ice cream, they pulled up a camp chair for me to sit on.
Soon more neighbors came over with their chairs and bags of fireworks. The dads lit and threw out the fireworks. The moms oohed and ahhed appropriately. The kids made yellow sparkler circles in the dusky sky.
If there is one thing I learned while living in that neighborhood, it's that civil servants tend to live by the adage "Work hard. Play harder." I did not need to worry about what kind of fireworks I bought. As the sunlight faded and night fell, we could see fireworks displays from other driveways grow taller and taller, illuminating the subdivision sky. I'd been feeling bad that I wasn't taking the kids to a fireworks display, but now I figured this was way better than any city's firework show.
When I said as much to the neighbors gathered there, they told me that a policeman who lived down the block owned one of the fireworks stands. All the policemen in the neighborhood got their fireworks from him.
After the last flying-spinning-fountain-candle had been lit, the neighbor from the S.W.A.T. team threw a flashbang into the middle of the cul-de-sac. I had not ever heard anything as loud or seen anything as bright as that flashbang. I remembered seeing Vic Mackey throw one of these into a suspect's house on every episode of The Shield. But in person it was so frighteningly breathtaking.
It was a perfect finale to the day in which I tried so hard to make sure my law enforcement neighbors wouldn't write me up for my novelty fireworks. As soon as I was able to talk to my husband, I told him all about our Fourth of July fireworks adventure. I was sorry he couldn't have been there with us. We had a blast.