Illuminations Forevermore

John Adams’ Illuminations

“The day will be the most memorable in America.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward, forevermore.”  -John Adams, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, after the Continental Congress proclaimed the American colonies independent from Britain.

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John Adams’ “illuminations” always resonated with me. I absolutely positively love fireworks in an over-the-top patriotic childlike sort of way. Few entertainment venues inspire me more than a grand display of pyrotechnic missiles exploding in shimmering sparkles of magnesium dust across the steely sky.

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Whew!  Takes your breath away, don’t it? God bless America!

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BANG! “Look Daddy, wow!”

I often use the word “joy” when describing fireworks. Not just amusement or entertainment or inspiration, but joy.  Like at Disneyworld on vacation long ago. My starry-eyed daughters, little then, enthralled by magical firelight exploding over Cinderella’s Castle. BANG! “Look Daddy, wow!”

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Their beaming faces and that sparkle in their eyes were wows indeed. My daughters are teenagers now. Their precious-awe by fireworks light is tempered age appropriate. There is something tiny-sad there. Still, that little-girl glow of child wonder burns glorious in my memory banks—precious fatherhood moments-past endearing “forevermore.”

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Of course, I always savored the annual mega displays. You know the gigs—not just fireworks, but rocking blaring concert music and festive laser lights with thousands of people jamming the Parkway. The high-tech patriotic fervor captivated me, especially during those mesmerizing finales of rapid-fire booms! blazing overkill across every inch of flashing sky! And then I am the awestruck 5-year-old gazing, pointing up at every star-spangled kaboom! laughing, “So awesome man!”

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Please God, let me hear it

But then the pealing bangs fell silent and the patriotic band played no more. I lost my hearing in late June 2010 just prior to summer firework season. Devastated, I was nevertheless determined not to miss my beloved illuminations. And so it was that I saw the first silent rocket soar skyward. My expectations were dismal low. Will I even hear a muffled boom? “Please God, let me hear it?”

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I noticed the difference right away as the missile ascended without swoosh or whistle, leaving a squiggly tale of multicolor new-tech blaze in its wake. But it looked more like a many-hued sparkler going up rather than a projectile. It was so bright.  “Hmmm, must be a new type of…”

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Then it exploded without a sound.  The detonating awe of the sudden boom-less fire burst stunned me to the quick as endless brilliant spokes of dazzling color fanned out across the night. “What the…?!” Prayer denied, jaw dropped, eyes wide, I stared toward heaven humbled and astonished at the intense radiance of soundless fireworks. I heard nothing. I saw everything.

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Speed of light stands still

There is something about seeing a fireball explode in utter silence that stays every glorious lick of light into slow motion. So much so that each shooting ray appears to hover as if frozen at the zenith of its burst. Thus the speed of light stands magically still and I see every intricate blast-particle at the height of its shine and beauty!

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My awestruck teary eyes sparkled back at the gleaming sky as the joy of fireworks explodes within me. Told you I love it.

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If you could only see what I see!

Perhaps, you think, it’s peculiar emotionalism for a grown man to be moved to tears simply by watching fireworks.  But if you could only see what I see! I don’t know why or how, but my sense for vivid colors, especially lights, has been deeply stirred by deafness’ grip. My eye site has literally and clinically improved. My contact lens prescriptions have been dramatically powered-down and I don’t need reading glasses anymore. Colors all around snap sharp and crisp.

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Nature’s stunning beauty never stunned, until I lost all hearing. Holy crap that sky is blue! There are a billion more twinkling stars at night than I ever noticed. And since when do you have to shield your eyes from the brightness of the moon?! But the lights—that’s the most vivid change of all. Every fixture, ray and sparkle is just so, well, illuminating.  And, it seems each blessed new day that the entire world shines brighter yet.

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Listen to the sounds of history

Sounds corny, don’t it?!  What can I say?  My stunning tale of fire’s light is crystal clear and true. Everything I see today is simply more brilliant beyond anything I ever observed or imagined in the past.  And so in the spirit of Independence Day, I’m delighted to declare that John Adams’ illuminations burn spanking bright and peal thunderous from this day forward, forevermore!

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How do I know?  I listen, of course.  I listen to the sounds of history.  Not centuries ago, just ten years. Remember, when the kids were little. Today I watch the silent fireworks and just listen, listen to the sounds of history:

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BANG! “Look Daddy, wow!”  “I see it honey! It’s beautiful. It’s so amazingly beautiful!”

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Loud too. Forevermore.

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2 replies
  1. Julia says:

    Very touching. I’m amazed at how your other senses became keener when you lost your hearing. Very touching–reminds us all to enjoy the beauty of the moment and never to take it for granted. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Karen says:

    Brian,

    Your post gives new meaning to “looking on the bright side.” I am happy for your new found appreciation for the little things. Your unique outlook is boosted by your sharper senses and that comes through beautifully on the page. As our kids grow we do cherish the memories of life through their eyes. Those were the days.

    Many blessings to you.

    Love, your cuz

    Reply

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