Boston just celebrated another Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on the Fourth of July. People come from all over the country to be here and experience the concert, the 1812 Overture with Boston’s ringing church bells and firing cannons, and of course the fireworks. For a number of years, the event was even nationally televised, which I was proud of until I realized it moved the fireworks to be an hour later to synchronize with other nationally televised fireworks, like those in New York. Why do I have to get home at 12:30 or 1 am because some poindexter television programming executive thinks New York fireworks are more important? When the televised contract wasn’t renewed, I breathed a sigh of relief that the fireworks could return to the earlier time slot, and I could get squished home in the human river of attendees at a decent hour.
But the funny thing is, I haven’t made it down to the Esplanade since then. Which reminds me, let me apologize to all the tourists who find our names unpronounceable. On Thursday I was by the river near where the concert and fireworks are held and a tourist couple asked me, “How do you pronounce that place with the fireworks, ‘Es-play-nade’?”
For the record, it’s pronounced “Es-pluh-nod.” And that’s the same with or without the Boston accent. Then they wanted directions to that place with the shops and restaurants that begins with an “F”. Ah, Faneuil Hall, another hard to pronounce/remember word. I pointed down the street and told them to go that way, and then to ask again in a few blocks. That’s my strategy rather than trying to explain how to get somewhere with roads that twist and curve unhelpfully and the term “city block” is more of a quaint suggestion than a useful measure of distance.
But back to the Fourth—when I was younger, my friends and I would go in groups—different groups of friends for different years, and we each had a favorite strategy or place to see the fireworks from, based on years of trial and error. The main objective for all of them was to swoop in around 6 or 7 pm in a place that wasn’t wall-to-wall people, have a bit of time to socialize and eat, then watch the concert on the big screens they set up for anyone not actually sitting in front of the stage, see the fireworks, and get out. Two intrepid friends actually kayaked and watched the fireworks on the river. Two others braved the all-day-on-the-oval experience. I’m a trooper, but that’s too hardcore even for me. My idea of a good time does not include being stationed all day in one spot guarding the boundaries of your blanket against enthusiastic patriotic encroachment.
The first year I didn’t go down to see the fireworks in person was when my son was just four months, and I couldn’t face the sheer amount of stuff I would need to bring him. Not to mention I was still a new enough mother that I couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to quiet him if he decided, being a new enough baby, to howl like he was getting murdered. But as I watched the fireworks on TV that year, it so awfully paled in comparison to seeing them in person, I vowed like Scarlett O’Hara to never miss them in person again. And I didn’t for a long time.
But then the friends began to scatter and in the pre-during-post divorce years I didn’t have the energy to throw myself into that party of more than 100,000 people. I do have my Bostonian pride, though, and told myself I’d get back to it once life had settled. And then I moved to my current apartment up on a hill, and I discovered I can actually see the fireworks in the distance from the end of my driveway. So life is now happily settled, and I’m finding it really hard to make good on my promise. I could be talked into it, but there is no one to do it—my friends still scatter to other places for the Fourth, and my teen son prefers to stay camped out at his computer until the fireworks come on, when he’ll join me at the end of the driveway to oooh and aaah.
So I feel a little guilty that people come from all over to see this, and I was lazy and stayed home. But at least I didn’t watch it on TV, and if I’m being perfectly honest, I selflessly made room for an enthusiastic out-of-towner to have a grand time on the esplaynade. What’s more patriotic than that?