We planned our entire trip around my sister’s party, the one where the sky above her Oklahoma neighborhood explodes with color after color. The party where I knew my boys could light smoke bombs and watch their cousins set off rockets, where we could drink from red, white and blue straws and laugh until our bellies hurt.
My boys aren’t used to firework stands dotting the roadways from June to July. They are growing up in an area that’s more heavily populated and more heavily regulated. And just this once, I wanted them to light a fuse, see it flicker and run like crazy to the sidewalk.
I wanted this little sliver of Americana for them. The Fourth of July the way I remembered it growing up.
I probably took 200 pictures that night. My husband with his first ever firework. Colt throwing tiny sacks that pop when they hit the ground. Benjamin holding sparklers with the sun setting in the background. Jessie chasing a wayward parachute.
Then, there’s the picture of Colt and Aunt Kathy holding a tiny frog and the photo of the cousins in their matching flag shirts. A snapshot for every moment I wanted to capture and savor.
When the noisy firecrackers were gone and the smoke had dissipated, when I was just about to put away the camera for the night, we brought out the paper lanterns and began to unfold them.
There in the relative quiet, we separated the walls of the lanterns and made room for the flame and the hot air that would follow. Each lantern had a person on each side, waiting for the globe to lift. Then, ever so slightly, the lantern pressed against their hands and slowly and reverently rose.
I have no idea how long we stood there watching, pointing to our distant lights, but I know I’ve thought of it often since then – thought of it as a visual prayer.
In the chaos and the darkness, with firework casing all around, we opened up the walls to make room for God. We were still and we waited. And then?
We removed our hands and it rose to the heavens, lighting the way.
One of my favorite pictures of all.