Skaboom!

I like fireworks. Even though I’ve seen a lot of fireworks in my life, they’re still beautiful to me. There’s nothing I would like more than to lay back on the grass and watch them. Some of my best memories involve fireworks.

Walking around the lakeshore with Special K and watching the fireworks over Lake Michigan.

Standing at the window of a condo in Chicago that overlooked the City and watching fireworks from two different neighborhoods go off at the same time while I talked to Mister E on the phone.

Sitting on the grass in Nagaoka, Japan in the yukata my host family bought me while I ate my first-ever sushi – tekka maki – with barley tea, learned that hanabi uses the characters for “flower” and “fire,” and watched the biggest and most beautiful fireworks I’d ever seen. They were a part of the Obon Festival, which also had me wearing a happi coat while we carried a tiny mikoshi shrine, attending a traditional tea ceremony, and dancing in the Obon parade dressed in the company yukata of the Harashin Corporation (see Exhibit A).

Harashin Scholars, 1994

That particular year also gave me my favorite fireworks story, as a matter of fact. As a gift to the city of Fort Worth, Nagaoka imported some seriously huge fireworks for us to set off for July 4th. These things were the size of a sedan and terrifying to behold, though everyone else seemed to think they were fun to pat and take pictures around while I hid in the parking lot and waited for the explosion.

A huge party was set up by the Sister Cities organization to show off the fireworks and raise funds for the program, and those of us who had been chosen for the Harashin Scholarship Program were seating guests, greeting the delegation from Japan, and generally showing off how cute we were. I was showing my cuteness by checking identification and affixing wristbands to people so they could booze it up.

Anyone who has ever had to perform this task knows that the best way to make people smile and forget they’ve been standing in line in the Texas heat in July is to tell the more mature folks that you need to see some proof they’re old enough to drink. It’s guaranteed to work on Dallas socialites of a certain age, and we even got a few extra donations out of it. Good times.

By the time the well-dressed lady with the white hair walked up to my table, I was getting a little antsy. There was food inside the party and I’d been too nervous to eat earlier. It was hot and sticky and I needed to use the little fan my friend had. There were mosquitos and my insect repellent was wearing off. So I gave her the most cursory of glances, smiled brightly and said “Could I see some identification, Miss?” She laughed and handed me her driver’s license, at which point I realized that there was a reason my friend was jabbing me in the ribs. This was the face on the license.

If you’re not from Texas, you might not recognize Ann Richards but I can forgive you because on that particular evening neither did I. Only when I saw her name on the driver’s license did I look up in surprise at the Governor of Texas. I gave a little curtsy because I had no idea what else to do. No, seriously, I did. The memory haunts me to this day. Feeling like I should say something, I apologized to Governor Richards for making her wait and handed her back her license, but she just laughed again.

“Don’t you worry about it honey, you made my day.”

“I cannot believe you carded the Governor,” my friend hissed at me when she had gone. “How do you not know what the Governor looks like?” I agreed and suggested that perhaps she could do a better job while I went into the party to get something to drink, hoping I could con a waiter into giving me some booze. The Governor waved at me from her table. I had to settle for Perrier.

On the upside, the fireworks were amazing.

Happy 4th, y’all.

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