The Very First Time
By: Brandy Black
This past weekend we went to South Pasadena High School for the 4th of July. This marked the first time that Sophia would see fireworks. I began preparing her for this monumental night on Friday morning by making her a red, white and blue breakfast with accompanying drawings of fireworks and the American flag. I explained (in a toddler’s language) what this holiday meant to our country and to us. I then sang her the Star Spangled Banner with my hand to my chest. She listened while I slaughtered our anthem and was not the slightest bit interested. We talked about the fireworks and she was concerned that they would fall on her head if they were coming from the sky, a very logical question. I explained that it was like light and Susan later explained it was like bubbles that melt in the air; she was good to go.
On the 4th we prepared by making cupcakes in our country’s colors and off we went with our picnic in hand to the loveliest little high school in South Pasadena. Susan and I have been coming here for the last 6 years; there is just something so quaint and wholesome about the evening. This year we introduced it to Sophia who had napped for a record short 20 minutes rather then her usual 2 hours and was overtired and rather grumpy. By the time we headed out the door Susan and I were exhausted from being pummeled and yelled at by our recently defiant daughter. Not surprisingly our daughter rose to the occasion from the second we were greeted by the 3 older ladies selling tickets; Sophia had them gathered around giggling like school girls. We went out to the football field and spread out our blanket and snacks. The usual scrabble or cards was now Candy Land with all the kids looking over our shoulders to see who would get set back with the gumdrop card. The bouncy house that I never knew existed was now the center of our world. We danced to the band and cheered on the winning runner of the pre-firework race around the track for the fastest mile. The kids in the upcoming musical performed for us and children danced around our blankets. The history teacher came up and read from the Declaration of Independence and I got teary. Sitting there with Sophia in my arms hearing those words from 234 years ago, on a football field about to watch fireworks -all for her first time ever -made me proud of our country and its traditions. When a woman on stage began singing our national anthem Sophia cracked a smile as she held her hand tightly to her heart, she looked around to see that everyone was standing along with us honoring the song. She was serious and never moved her hand through the entire, long (slightly shrieking) song.
I realized that in these next, perhaps, 5 years we have a small window of time to truly see through the eyes of a nascent child who has not yet learned to be cynical about the lame band and the guy on stage rambling on when the fireworks are running 10 minutes behind. We can now stop and think about what it truly means to be an American, to celebrate this day and many other holidays, to enjoy the precious moments of a picnic and a dance on a beautiful day under a deep blue sky for what feels like the very first time.