Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Red Glare

To say that I was walking home would be a misstatement, since what I was actually doing was heading back to the motel where my family and I were staying for a couple of nights. We had come here to take a break. We had come here to take a break from our family's most recent chore: selecting a college for our son. After driving across the greater Los Angeles area, visiting a number of different institutions, we had landed in Anaheim for a day of Disney before pressing on in what has become something of an obsession: finding the right school.
I chose to walk back, allowing my wife and son to find their own way via the parking lot tram that gave them a few minutes more vehicular transport. Having spent the bulk of the day in the back of the family car, I was happy to stretch my legs, even in the oppressive evening southern California heat. As I came over the rise, the fireworks began.
I have seen my share of fireworks shows, from far away and up close in the Magic Kingdom, but now I found myself walking past the launch area just behind Toontown. I was directly beneath the blast area. I could hear the mortars roar as each shell flew into the sky. There was no delay between the flash and the explosion that ricocheted across the street, rattling the steel beams of the parking structure. I didn't have time to flinch. It was happening right above me and as I continued to walk, it felt that I was going further into the blast zone, rather than away from it.
I remembered putting my hands over my son's ears when he was tiny. His fascination with "fireworkers" wouldn't allow him to look away from the flashes of color exploding across the sky, but he was terrified of the noise. That was a long time ago.
Now I was back at our motel, waiting for the rest of my family to meet me at our home away from home. I was consumed with the thought we had been sharing earlier that evening: We were looking for a new home for my son. It was possible that earlier that day we had been looking at dorms where my son could be setting up housekeeping in another year. Then I was aware of the concussion of each new blast in the sky above me. Now they were pounding back against the facade of the motel. I could feel each one like a blow to the head. They were taking my breath away. This was happening at the same time that I was reckoning with my son's pending departure. I felt it each time the night lit up and I was pushed back just the tiniest bit by what was happening up above me. I felt the physics. I felt the distance. I could not remember feeling sad at a fireworks show.
I was glad when the smoke started to clear. My wife and son returned and we shared our experiences of the trek from Disney under fire. It was good to have everyone together again.

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