As we get older in years, many of the holidays that we once cherished can become a hollowed-out ritual of the same people, the same food, etc. We sometimes forget how these celebrations form the basis of the memories of future generations. I was reminded of this when I recalled the first time I held a sparkler alone in my hand. For me, it was a rite of passage to the “grown-up” Fourth of July . As a very young child, the Fourth of July can be a scary affair-loud noises, loud explosions of color, loud music, and sometimes even louder family members. I had prided myself on participating in the Fourth of July celebrations to the extent I felt comfortable-fireworks at a distance. Why, two or three years ago, I was able to watch the whole Fourth of July celebration on TV without bolting for the door. The next year, I was able to watch fireworks in person without bolting for the door. I was done! What more could they want!
Now, at the grand old age of 7, I was given the opportunity to the leave behind my childhood versions of the Fourth of July and move into the adult version. My cousin, who was a little older than me, had just handed me a partially used sparkler. For a moment, I froze. I had never seen one so close. I was slightly scared, but mostly intrigued. Was it possible for humans to hold such tiny pieces of fire and not burst into flames? My older cousin was having so much fun with hers, I had to find out. Weakly holding out my hand, I took hold of it. Like most first encounters, it was over before it started. I stared at it for a minute. Had I done something wrong? No one had given me instructions. I had waited for so long (actually 2 minutes) only to have this failure. I knew this grown-up version of Fourth of July was not for me.
I sat there for a while in silence until my cousin gave me another and told me to have it lit. Inspired by the desire for redemption, I found my mother and boldly asked for a sparkler.. After she lit it, I watched the tiny spark make its way down the sparkler. I was supposed to hold that? I was not prepared for this like I thought. (It seemed so fun on TV) I then looked back at my cousin who was busy running around with two sparklers lighting the semi-darkened sky. Why was she so bold with these things?Maybe she had knew something I didn’t or maybe.. Using every sense of internal strength an 7-year old could muster, I reached for the end of the sparkler. This time it didn’t go out. This time I had redeemed myself. I was ready for the big leagues and made sure everyone knew about it! The only problem…so was the rain! Within about one minute of my sparkler being lit, it fizzled into a dismal nothing. The pride, however, that I gained from stepping into the unknown, did not.