As holidays go, the Fourth of July is a good one to spend in Boston. You don’t have to worry about the cold and snow as you do for all of the fall holidays, and unless you get rained on – as folks did this year, unfortunately – you’re pretty well set for the enjoyment of an amazing fireworks show accompanied by a Boston Pops performance without the weather getting in the way.
Having lived in Boston for about 11 years now, I’ve probably seen the show here at least 7 times. I’ve tried going to the Hatch Shell to hear the Pops live and watch the fireworks, crammed in with a million other people. I’ve watched the fireworks from the Mass Ave bridge with my parents and little sister, who were visiting during one of our hottest summers ever; we had a great view of everything, including the dude-bros in front of us who insisted on talking about the girls they’d picked up the night before. (I wanted to interrupt them to ask them to pipe down in front of my mother, who was laughing at them. My dad didn’t seem to notice them at all.) And I’ve been lucky enough to get a rooftop view of the celebration, with the Pops playing on the radio, from my husband’s office building in Cambridge. That was by far my favorite place to watch everything since I’m not a fan of huge crowds, of trying to catch public transit home from an event with said crowds, or of getting in line 24 hours before the main event in order to score a seat. I prefer lazily doing whatever until around 9:30 and then driving to a building and walking up a bunch of stairs with a handful of other people. Hooray for the Fourth of July on a smaller scale!
Now that I have small kids, though, I’m stuck watching everything from the lopsided cushions of my couch. For a few years at least, my kids are going to be unable to stay awake and pleasant (this last part is key) until 10:35 at night so we can actually go somewhere to see the real Boston fireworks extravaganza. Some years, that’s fine and others, it’s kind of a bummer, which is why we’ve started a new tradition instead: barbequing with friends, drinking pitchers of pina coladas, and having our own fireworks in the driveway, then watching our neighbors set off more (they are braver than we are, and plus, one of them recently went to New Hampshire to pick all of this stuff up).
Not to sound like I’m writing a grade-school essay about what the Fourth of July means to me, but the holiday has morphed into my Thanksgiving, in a way. There’s a lot less pressure than there is at the real Thanksgiving to provide a feast that is exquisitely prepared and laid out; instead, everyone shares the cooking, and you squirt some ketchup on a charred hot dog, add an ear of corn, and you’re done. Nothing is meant to be perfect, so everyone just relaxes and has a good time. And there is more likelihood of getting together with a bunch of people you want to see but can’t on other holidays due to family obligations. Plus, there is the fun of lighting things on fire and watching them spark and shimmer in the dusk. You can’t really do that on a cold winter’s night in New England.
So, happy birthday, America! Thanks for giving us the excuse to set off explosives.