Freedom at the fireworks: a small-town advantage

It’s been years since I’ve taken the older kids to a fireworks display.
I don’t like crowds and our oldest son panics when people box him in.
My husband, who towers above most folks at 6-foot-5, lives in constant fear of knocking heads and shoulders with his elbows. Events that attract thousands to tiny plots of land do not generally merit his consideration.
So we weren’t even tempted to attend fireworks displays in our previous home cities of  Phoenix and Cincinnati, where people are crammed body against body at most of the official fireworks sites, sometimes even camping overnight to claim the best spots.
But when I heard that Troupsburg, NY, a small (really small) town just across the border from our equally small (really small) Pennsylvania borough, was hosting a display July 3, I gave into the pleas of the older kids and decided it was time to give it a try.
My husband stayed home with our 4-year-old twins while the older two kids and I met up with friends and headed about nine miles north to the hay field just beyond the elementary school, where we were told to park.
We passed a small gathering of vehicles here, a large group of chairs on the side of the rural road there, more vehicles and more chairs until, finally, we found a spot of our own  on the edge of the mowed field with no one close enough to even hear us talk.
Those who settled somewhat nearby seemed to be facing the center of the field, but all we saw before us was a van parked about 100 yards away. It was too dark in this place with no houses or street lights to see more.
We chatted and waited, figuring the fireworks must be set elsewhere and that those who directed us believed this was the best observation point.
We were wrong.
Were we ever wrong.
Our conversation was disrupted by a blast so close that my daughter flew into my lap. We leaned back in our chairs, our faces parellel to the stars, as the flames burst into thousands of colorful sparks in our own piece of sky, surrounding us and engulfing us.
Dancing, it seemed, just for us.
Only us.
The performance was every bit as breathtaking as the displays I enjoyed in my journalism days in Syracuse, NY, with a grand finalle that brought my 11-year-old son to his feet. It was only then, when cheering errputed from all directions, that I remembered how many other people were there.
In the field, on the side of the road, in the park down the road, in town on their front lawns or in their back yards.
Experiencing this with us.
It was, as my friend Gail put it, “like our own personal show.”
I had to smile.
I immediately knew that next year, I will bring my husband and the twins. There is no reason to fear infliction of injury at this fireworks display, no need to worry that the twins will take over someone else’s blanket, no need to feel claustrophobic or panicked. No one will try to sell us $5 glow sticks or light-up twirly things or drinks or snacks.
No one will step on our fingers or toes or jump over legs as we try to enjoy the show.
We will all find a place in this field, our own space, where we can relax and stretch our legs without sacrificing the view. And I will remember, as I did on this night, all those well-meaning people who warned me when we moved here exactly one year ago that I would find small-town life (really small-town life) “inconvient.”
Convenience is, I was reminded once again, most certainly relative.

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