Waiting For Freedom

If you live in the Unites States, then I hope you had a happy Independence Day yesterday. If you don’t live in the United States, you may or may not be aware that every Fourth of July we in the U.S. celebrate freeing ourselves from the yoke of British tyranny by having parades, eating hot dogs, and blowing things up. As a boy my family would join the sweaty throngs on the hillside overlooking Roger Williams Park Zoo amphitheater to watch a Rhode Island-sized fireworks display. This experience was divided into three distinct phases of waiting.

Because the fireworks could not begin until the canvas of the night sky was thoroughly black, and because one must arrive early to get a good position, there were hours of waiting between stretching out on your blanket and the first explosion. The only schedule was darkness, and so the waiting gradually acquired a speculative quality, the final moments being spent measuring the blackness of the overhead blue for its firework-worthiness.

Then, without any warning, something would happen. Oh, the relief! With a whistle and a crack and a shower of light the waiting was over. Or it had changed. First, there was the brief, expectant wait between fireworks, filled with commentary on the relative extraordinariness of each display. But as the fireworks progressed, anticipation of the finale began to build, wondering with each new whistle if this would be another one-shot or the first of the coming frenzy. Finally it came, and the sky was filled with light upon light, your chest shaking with the thunder-crack of sound, everyone cheering, and the faces of your family and hillside neighbors glowing yellow, then red, then blue.

And then it was over. For a moment, silence. Then—the escape. Somehow, someone must have gotten out of that park quickly, but we were never one of those lucky few. Leaning against the backseat window, the night illuminated by headlights, I waited as we inched our way toward freedom, certain it would come, either by the roads my mother followed, or the sleep that would soon overtake me.

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