One thing I like about motherhood is that it fills you with the desire and energy to do things you wouldn't necessarily do on your own behalf or for your own enjoyment. Somehow, when you imagine there could be some benefit to your child, you will find yourself making the effort for things you could really take or leave in your own adult life.
Exhibit A: I have not seen (except by mere coincidence) fireworks in years. It's been probably at least a decade since I saw a whole show up close, and even that was probably following a baseball game I was already there to watch anyway. I just didn't really care enough to go to the trouble.
But today is Independence Day, and it's the first one on which my son is really cognizant enough to register cool stuff. I HAD to make sure he saw a show.
Today's New Activity: The Wonder of Fireworks for the First Time (Again)
There were a couple of problems with this plan. First was that I wasn't picking my son up from his Dad's until 8pm. There wasn't time to get far enough for the really cool show up in San Francisco. And according to all the news outlets, a whole bunch of the smaller local shows had been cancelled due to budget cuts.
My parents and I loaded into the car--my Dad at the helm as usual--with snacks and chairs and blankets and went to pick up Monkey with the plan of getting to....somewhere...
Our thought was to find a spot somewhere between Great America and Shoreline Amphitheater, just a few miles apart off the 101, and catch both shows. Then we thought, meh, might as well just find a really good spot by Great America and see one really good show up close. We drove around, got kicked out of Yahoo's parking lot by a grumpy rent-a-cop, and consulted a few families who were all set up in other parking lots in the area (rather unfortunately, it would turn out) before finally driving by the entrance to Great America, where two huge signs read "NO FIREWORKS TONIGHT." Wtf? It's the 4th of July! They'd had fireworks all weekend long, but not on this night?! The one night of the year when people would be expecting to see them?!
No time to lament...we were quickly losing light.
We tried another parking lot right off 237 where we could have seen the Shoreline fireworks but were promptly scooted out of that one, too.
Back onto 101 and headed north to exit Shoreline. Us and 47,000 other people. We got stuck in the traffic clusterf*ck of the year with seemingly no end in sight and already enveloped in darkness. What to do but bust open the Cracker Jack[s] my Mom had packed and enjoy watching the smart, plan-ahead families, who'd parked their cars and were walking with chairs toward....somewhere....from inside the car?
What I loved about the 45 minutes I've described so far is that it reminded me so much of my own childhood. My parents didn't have a lot of money to do recreational stuff when I was a child, but what they lacked in funds they more than made up for in will-to-have-fun and sense-of-adventure. I can remember one 4th of July in particular when my parents hosted a BBQ, then piled EVERYBODY into the back of my Dad's old pickup truck and headed out to find some fireworks. After being bounced around off-road style, slamming into each other and holding on for dear life, we ended up at the top of a hill in a dirt field--the best seat in the house (I have to wonder at this. I'm not all *that* old, but it seems like a different era to me--one in which kids could actually sit in the back of a pickup. I'm sort of glad nothing like that is legal anymore....it'll keep me from seeming like the bad guy when I tell my son no WAY to all the crazy dangerous stuff he's gonna want to do).
My childhood is full of memories like that: no real plan--save the commitment to take a step in some direction and see what kind of fun we could get into.
Which brings me back to tonight's traffic jam. I really didn't think we'd get anywhere in time to actually watch the show. At this point, now just around the corner from the venue (where an orchestra was performing, a show which would end with the fireworks. Tickets $19.50, if you wanted *inside* the amphitheater), cars lined every inch of the curbs, guards blocked the closest parking lots, now filled to capacity, and traffic cops screamed at cars trying to slow down and just cruise their way by the show. It was already 9:30, the time the show was supposed to start.
Then, like magic, a break. There was a curb that broke for a driveway RIGHT in front of where all those walking families were apparently headed, and somehow there was just enough space for a car our size to squeeze in. How is it that every single car that had passed by (must have been hundreds by that point) had missed it?! It was literally the closest spot of all to the little field where people had set up camp.
We quickly parked, grabbed everything out, walked 10 steps, and were there: again, best seats in the house.
It was still another 30 minutes before the fireworks started...enough time to take some pictures, munch some more snacks, and get Monkey all wound up in anticipation--for what, he had no idea.
Then, finally, the first boom, the first giant red firework lit up the sky, and my son let out a whispered "Whoah!" And then later the word "Colors!"
It was a moment every Mama loves to see. The moment of first wonder, first discovery. A moment you know will happen exactly once in a child's life. One of many dozens and hundreds and thousands of firsts he'll experience. But a big one.
And then, just 10 minutes later, it was all over. All that driving and (for others) the walking, the packing, the planning, the year-long wait for another go at this, was all over, just like that. Thankfully, as mentioned, we were SUPER close to our car. We whisked up the chairs and the snacks and the Monkey and scooped it all back into the car. It happened so fast that Monkey was still saying "whoah" even as I buckled him into his car seat and we swung back to the freeway in time to beat what would surely be a nauseating traffic jam getting out.
I had to laugh, wondering what my son must have been thinking about all this. We just drove all around the Peninsula headed seemingly nowhere in particular, sat in a bunch of traffic where hundreds of people were walking and bicycling in the same direction outside our car, parked, hauled out chairs and food into the middle of a dark field where we could just see the outlines of scores of other people all looking in the direction of nothing. Then a bunch of colors lit up the sky and suddenly and hurriedly, we scuttled back to our car and home again. Really, how do kids make sense of this kind of thing?
Even if it was strange and foreign, I'm hoping and thinking he enjoyed it. I'm hoping he'll enjoy all the future drives to nowhere but whatever adventures lies at the end, or along the way...even if he doesn't truly appreciate their worth until he is my age and bringing his own children along for the ride. :)
And as a final note...the song he's been singing his version of for months now may finally make some sense to him: