For Fireworks and Memories
by Kenneth Cross
We reclined on a makeshift beach towel. I sat with my friends. A big smile danced across my face as we talked. I had just graduated high school, and this was the summer before college. It was my last summer to spend at home, with the people I loved. Well, I was taking advantage of the time I had.
Cars lined the hilltop, crowding the awed spectators closer. The July fireworks always brought the town together, if only for a few hours. Folding chairs lined the grass as hundreds of people awaited the coming darkness that would provide the perfect stage for the light show.
Crickets sang through the evening, mixing their musical chirps with the soft whisper of voices. The air melted over our skin, warm and subtle. As the short summer day ended, a curtain of red descended on the darkening sky.
“Hey, Kenny, smile!”
A bright flash lit the world for a hundredth of a second. One of my friends pulled the camera away with the incriminating image and laughed. I laughed back and pulled out a camera of my own, starting a picture war. We both saw spots for minutes afterward.
One of my other friends, a girl with tanned skin and Capri pants, chuckled at our antics as she spit watermelon seeds into the grass.
Across a highway, the church ended its Independence Day service. This was an important sign – the show would begin soon. It was interesting, having the fireworks show next to a highway. I wondered what those people would think, driving by and seeing the brilliant flashes in the sky. Maybe the audience was larger than we thought.
It was the girl with the Capri pants, Lindsey.
“Yes?” I said.
“Well, you’ll still talk to us sometimes next year, right?”
“Sure, and I’ll probably even visit sometimes, too. You’re going to have to let me know how high school will go without me.”
My other friend, Elizabeth, laughed.
“It’ll go on, Kenny, just not in the same way.”
“Yeah,” I said. “There won’t be anyone there to keep you company in detention.”
We chuckled. The summer warmth always brought out the best memories.
I reached for a cold glass of lemonade, and a flash of light caught my eye. A soft boom followed closely. I looked up in time to see the fading remnants of the opening sky sparkler. In seconds, several more shimmering rings of color decorated the darkening sky. Some shots were complicated, sending a single flare and later splitting it in random directions. Some shots were simple, creating a giant circle of luminescence against the clouds. All shots were beautiful.
The flecks of burning paper inevitably descended, disappearing before they reached the ground. Their existence was temporary, as all things are. But while those scraps of burning paper existed, they gave boundless joy to others. I was also living an ephemeral existence, with college looming in the future. But while I was still at home, I wanted to live like those burning embers, giving joy to others.
I turned my head for a quick glance to my sides. Both my friends were utterly engrossed, mouths opened slightly. Their eyes reflected the blazing suns that passed through the sky. I smiled. The fireworks were breathtaking.
After years of seeing the fireworks show, I anticipated the finale. But it still amazed me. A shock of tiny blasts massaged my ears in rapid succession. The entire sky glowed with color, shimmering and sparkling and blazing all at once. The gray smoke filtered the lights, giving them a haunting quality.
Every year, the finale inspired me. Every year, the show was more spectacular than the previous one. But all things must eventually end. With one last burst of brilliance, the show was over. Next year I would have to return, to continue the tradition.
Cars began to roar off into the descending night. My friends and I simply sat on our beach towel and smiled, staring into infinity. We were remembering the last five minutes, committing it to memory. The church lights looked dim compared to the giant fireworks in the sky. As we sat there, a line of cars clogged the streets. Well, that was also part of tradition. Actually, it gave us time to talk. I was grateful.
After several minutes of silent awe, we got up and packed the towel. We ate the rest of the watermelon, enjoying every last succulent taste. Then, we drank the cold lemonade and stretched. Sleep would come soon, hopefully bringing sweet dreams with it.
In the end, we drove away and left the thin trails of smoke to disappear into the horizon. In the morning, as the cover of night faded, those last remnants would disappear with the dawn. The night would be over, a mere summer memory. Thus, it would live forever.