Like millions of Americans this time of year, my boys and I attended a fireworks display. We’ve rarely done the firework thing. I could attribute that to my older son, who, until the last year or so, detested loud, sudden sounds except for the ones originating from his own body. I could chalk it up to his younger brother, a child who thrives on a regular schedule and is downright frightening without enough sleep. Those are factors in our late adoption (we started last year) of fireworks around the Fourth of July as family tradition, but I’d be leaving out my responsibility here. I’m not a crowd person. I’m not a night person. I hate the heat, and I’m a mosquito magnet. So a big crowd on a hot night in a mosquito-infested park with one child who fears loud sounds and another who is asleep each night by 9 (and later than that guarantees a rough next day), and you have a non-firework-attending family.
Until now. Having friends near a fireworks site has lowered my resistance. Parking is no longer a problem, and this year, we watched the whole show from the front yard, bug spray in hand and bathrooms nearby. And my kids are older now, one much less sound-sensitive and the other a bit more able to sleep in after a late night. After our first invite to watch with these friends last July, my boys now consider it tradition, so to see fireworks we went.
As the show began, the cameras came out. Now, one woman in attendance is a professional photographer. She knows what she’s doing and, if it doesn’t turn out as planned, she knows how to fix it on her computer. I’m quite far from a professional photographer, and as I had my first real cell phone with me rather than an actual camera, I was far from even an amateur photographer. Turning the camera portion of the phone on left me flummoxed that night, although I’ve accidentally turned it on dozens of times when trying to just answer the darn thing. Anyway, others were trying to preserve the event in pixels, so I thought I’d give it a try.
Ha. Once I figured out how to turn my phone into a camera, I had to master the delay. This, in my opinion, is one of the few downsides to digital photography. What you see isn’t what you get. You get, at least on my ancient digital and on my newer phone, what you saw several seconds before you hit the magic button. So, as far as I could figure, the only way to turn a fleeting firework in pixels was to guess and push the button when the incendiary device was on the way up. I persisted with this approach, taking lousy shot after lousy shot, giving up, closing the phone/camera, then forgetting how to open it when I wanted to try again.
Why persist? Well, others were doing it, and, lemming that I’m usually not, I wanted in on the fun. Only it wasn’t fun. Watching the fireworks was fun. Listening to the kids’ comments as they watched was fun. Being with my friends was fun. Taking cruddy picture with a phone was distinctly not fun. Plus, it made me miss the fireworks.
As I wrote recently, I’ve taken fewer photos in recent years and nixed album making altogether. Most of the photography I do is for my blog, and the rest is so the kids can’t complain in 20 years that there are no pictures of them after 2008. I’ve discovered I prefer to be watching life as it happens, living it, rather than viewing it in a 1″ by 2″ screen. After all, it’s the only life I get. Sure, I want some reminders of what the kids looked like when they were young, but I’m preferring the pictures in my mind lately, and I’m not doing much looking back anymore. Less looking back and less looking forward leaves far more time and energy for what is real and now. After all, now is all we have.
Now let’s watch those fireworks. Oooo! Aahh!