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Sunday, July 5, 2009

My attention span equals that of a firework....

Fireworks have a magical effect on the world. But through the eyes of a child, there are few words "big" enough to describe the sky booming with color.

I was raised in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, and drive-in theaters were the place to be on the 4th of July, or for that matter, any summer night especially on a Wednesday. Fifty cents for an entire car load. How could you beat that? We had two drive-ins in town to choose from. Pretty snazzy for a small town surrounded by a Navajo Indian Reservation in the high desert with no direct routes from anywhere to get there, and while it wasn't exactly in the middle of nowhere, it was right next door to nowhere.

Some of my fondest moments as a child happened at our local drive-in. On a hot, dry summer evening right before the sun went down, we'd load up the car with blankets, pillows, a big water jug, and some homemade popcorn, and head to the drive-in theater. Most of the time my sisters and I already had our pj's on--it was part of the ritual. Our "attire of convenience" never stopped us from running to the playground even before the crackly sounding speaker had been attached to my dad's side of the window. Up and down the rows of hills we'd run, between cars, and under speaker wires straight to the playground. There was just enough sound floating in the arid air to hear the cartoon while lying on the slide, gliding to the sky in a swing, or spinning on the merry-go-round.

On the 4th of July there was always a firework display at the drive-in. We'd huddle on the ground in front of the car, or on top of the hood to watch the sky pop into mammoth sized sparklers. Squeals in loud or soft "ahhhhhhs and ohhhhhhhs", or even an occasional scream, was perfectly acceptable by one and all. Once a year was the only time one could watch fireworks. It was special--it's not that way today. We set off fireworks at half time, at concerts, at amusement parks, in our backyards, off the back of ships, and to announce the next McWhopper-Doodle Burger.

Superman and I stood among the masses to observe the fireworks display last night. When we jockeyed in for our position, I purposely moved to a spot where we wouldn't be blocking any people with children, or people who were seated. It's a habit with me--I'm a tall girl, and it's expected of you when you are tall to stand in the last row when pictures are being taken or to retrieve something from the top shelf of the cupboard for someone who is vertically challenged. I'm OK with that. I'm vertically endowed.People were talking the entire time around us, and not about the firework display. One young man walked by us talking loudly on his cell phone to be heard over the loud bangs. He was quite loud, and it was strange to observe his compete unawareness of his surrounding's or that his behavior might be considered rude by most of the people he walked past. I looked to my right and saw four teens standing in a group talking away--backs turned from the sky aflame with star bursts melting into plumes of smoke. I looked left, and saw another three people talking, engrossed in their conversations and not the show. They weren't watching at all. I turned my attention away from the people not watching to begin watching after I realized I'd missed several blasts of color in gawking at the people standing around me.

Ribbons of color, and balls of fire wooed a girlish "ahhhh" from my heart, and out the window of my mouth. I'm truly the most awake, and alive, when I'm behaving like a child. My heart is still five, or seven, or nine.... and I will never grow up completely-- no never.

Behind me I heard a little boy two years old, maybe three, but no older, exclaiming, "Wow!!" after each explosion of light and sound. It charmed me so I had to turn around to see the cherub whose voice took me back to my childhood of summer nights at the drive-in. It wasn't a moment later I heard his mother begin shushing him, telling him to stop saying "wow". I could barely contain myself from making the biggest OHHHHHHS and AHHHHHHS and WOWZZZZ you'd ever hear to rally behind that little boy just doing what comes natural--it's called being "a kid"~~~

So I'm standing there aware I've been as easily distracted by my surroundings as the people I've been annoyed at for being distracted, and scold myself for not watching the fireworks. I just focus in again, when a tall man.... a very tall, large man walks in front of me, and stands slightly in front of me just to my right to watch the show. He never once turns to see who he just stood in front of... which happened to be a family with small children, and a grandma seated in a wheel chair. He just stood there pleased as punch he'd found such a primo spot.

At this point I'm having an inner conversation about the situation instead of watching the fireworks. I'm trying to decide whether or not to tap the giant on the shoulder, and challenge him right there on the spot to move his big hunkin' butt on down the line so the people he blocked could see better. I decide to leave it alone especially since my Wonder Woman costume was at the cleaners. After all it is July 4th... so I begin watching (again...) standing on my tippy-toes, looking over his left shoulder.

I'd just gathered my focus, and had successfully resumed watching, when the hulk pulls out his cell phone and lifts it high above his head taking pictures of the fireworks. Now I'm distracted again... I stand there like a 12 year old playing a video game watching the shots he takes, and deletes or saves. Argghhhhh!!!! It took me 6-8 shots before I realized I was watching the firework show through his small LCD on the back of his frigging cell phone instead of the sky itself...

But what it really reminded me of was that I had my Flip Video in my purse and hadn't taken a single shot! So out it comes, and I stand next to the massive man who suddenly, and oddly, reminds me of the Statue of Liberty with his arm held high, his torch fired up with a glowing screen lighting the way for freedom of speech, freedom to watch what we want--or not--freedom to stand together as a country, and most importantly, as the diverse individuals that make up this great country. I managed to focus the last two minutes of the firework display--looking a lot like Lady Liberty myself standing next to Big Guy Liberty, clicking away.

After the Grand Finale, I twist my face into a surprised frown, and with a pout sinking my bottom lip down past my ankles ask Superman, "Was that it!?"

The world spins by so fast today and it takes a lot to hold our attention. I'm afraid my attention span is that of a gnat, too. A fleeting firework... A mere flash in cell phone camera... And I'm wondering what the heck I started this post to tell you about... And I fret about how many of you had enough time, or interest, or attention span to follow this long story to the end.

Go ahead, you have my permission to change the channel... but if you're still with me, leave me some comments on how you feel about then, and now, and our attention challenged world.'s what I wanted to tell you. I'm working on an album of shots I took of the fireworks. I'll post them soon on my side bar.

Now click that remote..... I'm outta here.


  1. I would have poked him. Probably would have regretted it though... I get distracted easily too. That's why I sit so close to the front at church and movies.

    I tease Hubby (6'5") that I only married him so I wouldn't have to sit behind him at the movies!

  2. I also have a short attention span but I think you were talking about driveins. I love drive in movies. There are so few any more. I did a post on one that we have in Michigan called Cherry Bowl Drive-in, it is a 50's style and family oriented. We still have a blast going there once a year. I don't think I would have said anything to that man, I am too much of a chicken and we live in a world where people carry guns. I would have been upset though. I am looking forward to your photos, I love fireworks, Sasha hates them. She was very nervous all weekend.


  3. I do this as well - get so distracted by the world around me and then get angry with myself for not paying attention to what is in front of me. Especially if I'm at a play, which is a one-time chance to see something remarkable. When I'm out and about, I'm often thinking about how a scene would look through a camera lense, rather than really SEEING it.

    Great post:)

  4. First of all, you brought back a lot of fond drive-in memories. Kids today haven't a clue of the summer magic that was held at those out door theaters.

    I probably would have made enough "subtle" comments for statue of liberty guy to get the point that he was a massive wall of blockage for everyone behind him. I have no tact.

    I don't enjoy fireworks displays anymore for all the reasons you wrote about, so I just don't go. It's like trying to watch a movie in a theater and having distractions around. The fun is all gone.

  5. it's funny, once I'm distracted, I'm gone! a total disconnect with no memory of where I was. Dementia? ~rick

  6. I would have told the giant to move along. Probably would have got a punch for my trouble.

    Just between you and me .... I love fireworks

  7. Great little essay and a fine explanation of why I quit going to concerts, firework shows, and any venue with more than 100 people.

    I can focus away from the distractions of a guy dressed up looking like the Statue of Liberty but I can not focus away from rudeness, no matter how hard I try.

    Memories of the drive-in though...yeah spot on with those.

  8. I wonder why that mother shushed her little boy? She should have let him express his wonder and awe!

  9. As someone who spends most of my time reminising about my childhood, or drawing comparisons, or watching other kids live out their childhoods, this post really touched me. It makes me so sad to see that the world has got so... accessable. There is little magic left... no'one pauses to feel their soul fly up with a kite, a firework, or a bird.. only those of us who are privilidged enough to be in touch enough with the wonderfulness of youth..... Over here at least, fireworks are illegal, you cannot buy them unless you drive over to England or up to the north... as a result, anyone who manages to get, even one or two is an exciting event!
    that bloke .... gggrrrrrrrr.... !

  10. You brought back fond memories of going to the drive-in. The 4 youngest would get into pjs and with blankets stretch out in the back of our station wagon. Cheap entertainment and we were all together. I remember too shen we went to Ocean park Maine and went to the drivein there.
    I love fireworks! I try not to let the ignorant few ruin it for me. I had cellphones anyway - what is so important that you have to disturb the ears of everyone else around. Some day I am going to repeat word for word what someone says as they are talking!
    And don't get me started on ignorant people who block others enjoyment!!!!
    The best firworks I have seen were at Parliament Hill in Ottawa last July 1 (08). Just awesome!!
    Great post!

  11. My favorite kid moment is going to a kid's movie and them all clapping at the end like we use to do when we were little.

  12. I used to enjoy fireworks, and Peggy used to REALLY enjoy fireworks, but then we got a dog who is terrified of them, and since we live downtown, an occasional one will go off for weeks after New Years or the 4th. I would say that's pretty much ruined fireworks for us, but Bonnie Blue Heeler is worth it, most everything being a trade of sorts.

  13. I spent the week of 4th of July 1976, the Bicentennial, in Las Vegas. So it takes a particularly spectacular fireworks display to get my attention. But when one does, I'm not embarrassed to say "Wowww...". I can't fathom a mother telling a child at an *outdoor* theater to stop saying "wow". Sheesh! If she didn't want him to say it, why did she bring him???

    As for the rude hulk blocking your view, unlike Rae, I wouldn't have been at all "subtle" about letting him know. Subtle never works on clods!

    But mostly I just wanted to say "Thank you" for the stroll down Memory Lane. Reading the part where you hopped out of the car in your PJs and headed for the playground, I was back at the drive-in my parents took me and my little brother. Funny how they always showed the "grown up" feature last. Can't count the times I swore I'd stay awake for the second feature, and the next thing I knew, the lights would be on and we'd be heading home!

  14. I live less than half a mile from a drive-in and loved going as a child, taking my children when I became an adult, and now my children take my grandkids! My mother used to make it a regular picnic: we had popcorn, cheese and crackers, hard boiled eggs, pickles, and a 3 gallon jug of fresh lemonade! Great memories!

    Also, I can catch a glimpse of the fireworks off my back deck; they set them off every Thursday night at Old Orchard Beach during the summer.

    I guess I took these things for granted... I will appreciate them more now.

  15. I have wonderful memories of drive-in movies with my family.

    I love and adore fireworks but from a distance away from the crush of the crowd.

    The big guy was just rude and uncaring and he probably really didn't appreciate the beauty of the show he was watching. He just like the loud noise.

    But out of this entire post the one point that will stick with me was the thought of a mother smothering the joy and wonder being expressed by her child.

  16. I had forgotten all about drive-ins when i was a kid (in my pajamas). Do you remember those mosquito repellent things that were in a spiral shape and you'd light it to keep the bugs away.
    As far as I remember those things never really worked too well..

  17. Fireworks are one of my all time favorite things! We live in a town that puts on a free concert and fireworks show in the football stadium. There's stadium seating (obviously) so nobody gets in your way. I suppose the people who choose to sit on the field probably had the same problem you had. Nobody gets in my way during the fireworks display! I sit at the tippy top of the stadium! But as I read this I had a little flash back to watching fireworks in my jammies at the drive-in movie theater! I had completely forgotten that's how we did it when I was little. Thanks for the memories :-)

  18. There should be justice for rude people, but there so rarely is. It's terrible when a few idiots cause such a distraction that it prevents one from having a good time and enjoying the show... I think the worst case of this sort I remember is from a Grateful Dead concert at RFK Stadium in Washington. I was with a girlfriend who was wearing shorts, and some guy behind us, too lazy to make his way out of the stadium floor to find the facilities, decided to pee into a plastic soda bottle, and made a mess of it, splashing onto my girlfriend's legs... she was literally pissed ! And what a conumdrum... punch the guy and get thrown out of a perfectly good Dead show ? Leave the great spot we had not far from the stage ? What a bummer... the guy was drunk anyway, wasn't even worth cussing him out. That show was on 12 July,'89, so nearly exactly 20 years ago...

    Hope you all had a great Fourth weekend !

  19. Good morning,
    what a wonderful entry of you today. Felt very nice to read. So - how do I feel? After sleeping less than four hours,mostly due to the noice outside and it waking up the kid, spending the day on the playground after having my head inside my books to learn ... somehow glad, nearly complete. Wonder what will await me tomorrow at this time ;)

  20. Nice photos! I love fireworks. I've only been to the drive-in once, and funny enough it was during a vacation to PEI in 2002. I wore my pj's too!

  21. I haven't experienced those rudenesses at fireworks display as of yet, thank goodness. Amazing. People are very distracted these days, missing the actual life happening all around them.
    When my son was little, we'd pack our car with juice and popcorn and head for the drive-in. We placed a large pillow between us up front for him to sit on. Those were the days....

  22. ~~~Thank you all for responding with such thoughtful, fun, and interesting comments! You made me feel better about being so easily distracted....sometimes you think you are the "only one" who does something or feels a certain way. Your sharing calmed my fears about needing stronger meds. LOL LOL

    It's interesting to see what parts of the story grabbed your attention, and how many of you were transported back to a happy time in life where no one worried about sending their kids off to the drive-in play ground--unattended so to speak--with no fear of who'd be lurking in the shadows to steal innocence. Many of us were so fortunate to have grown up in an era so carefree. It's heartbreaking as a parent to have to put fear into your child's mind by the multiple warnings of possible threats waiting around every corner we must expose them too. On the other hand, many of us, like myself, may never have experienced being sexually abused by monsters that lurk in those alleys of darkness--if there had been more awareness or public knowledge that sexual offenders-predators can strike anyone, anywhere...

    ""It makes me so sad to see that the world has got so... accessible. There is little magic left... no'one pauses to feel their soul fly up with a kite, a firework, or a bird.. only those of us who are privileged enough to be in touch enough with the wonderfulness of youth.....""
    Well said... poetic line to feel their soul fly up with a kite, a firework, or a bird.... That is why you are a song writer, and a good one. You feel through your words...~~~

    Great story even though the creep splattered your girl... that was a "ewwwwww' but sometimes life gives you ewwww's.... I always love your contributions to my posts, Owen. Thank you~~

    ""But out of this entire post the one point that will stick with me was the thought of a mother smothering the joy and wonder being expressed by her child.""
    I agree totally, Judy. In a world where most kids are numb because they've been over-stimulated, this to me was the saddest kind of inhibiting a child to interact or respond to a magical moment...a real moment not one created by visual effects or on a video game. Thank you~~

    Dementia...nah, dude. We're too young for that... Or it could be the effects from you testing the "gods" by sitting under a tree while an immense electrical storm passes overhead. YIKES!! I loved the way you ended your story when you came out of the rain... well I suppose people should go see your story without me giving away a great ending... Funny stuff... Thanks for stopping by the tree house...~~~

    ~~Sasha and Snow...
    My kitty hated the fireworks. He could pass on them, too. Poor little furry friends that endure our odd forms of entertainment...

    I will happily take you with me to any event to handle any rudeness I may encounter....hugzzz ( I love fireworks, too!!

    ~~~To everyone... Thank you for taking a trip down memory lane with me, and visiting me. I think your comments are the icing on the cake. Sweet, and leaves me wanting more of you.~~~



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