During my single years, I gravitated to Fourth of July festivals and to art fairs, parades, outdoor concerts, etc. If friends were available, I’d go with them; other times I went alone. Sometimes I thought it might be more fun if I had a special guy to share the experience.
So in 1985, with just such a man in my life, I suggested we go to Taste of Minnesota, a festival on the state capitol grounds featuring food, music, and fireworks. We went early and spread our blanket in a good spot. The food wasn’t wonderful, but people-watching was. As it grew dark, the Minnesota Orchestra played classics…1812 Overture, Stars and Stripes Forever, something by Aaron Copeland…all stirring and beautiful and perfectly suited to the occasion. If memory serves, they ended with the 1812 and started the fireworks just then. Huge chrysanthemums and fountains filled the sky overhead, and we oohed and aahed with the rest of the crowd. The finale might have been romantic, except that the skies opened up. Suddenly thousands of people were bumping and jostling, hoping to get out of the rain, hurrying in different directions toward their cars. We rushed, too, until we recognized the futility: first, we were already soaked, and second, once we got into the car and pointed toward the bottled-up freeway it would be stop-and-go traffic for an hour.
That’s when I understood why Peter didn’t like big, crowded festivals. We became a family in search of accessible fireworks. (And yes, I'm breaking with the tradition of my "25 years" stories by acknowledging the obvious: we are together, and celebrating the 25th anniversary of our courtship and marriage.)
We found a more distant vantage point for the Taste show—a church parking lot at the top of a ridge overlooking downtown. But a year later, the shrubs on the ridge had grown tall, blocking much of our view, and the mosquitoes were so thick we left early. In 1988, on the return leg of a family trip to Boston, we watched fireworks with my college friend Kathy and her family in Grafton, Wisconsin. And for a few years we headed over to the east bank of the University of Minnesota, sat on a hillside, doused ourselves with Avon Skin-So-Soft (original formula, an excellent mosquito repellent), ate fresh cherries, and watched the fireworks set off at the state fairgrounds. We had that down pat, until they cancelled the show.
Yes, we’ll be together tonight, watching from our first-row seats, wiping ash off our faces if the breeze blows in from right field. We’ll be wishing the grandkids could stay up late enough to join us. We’ll be saluting the flag and humming the patriotic tunes because we learned during the 1960s that it’s not a good thing for liberals to abandon the symbols of patriotism to the right. And we’ll be reveling in the fact that this comfortable life we’ve built together includes fabulous fireworks two miles from home.