Ryan Trares: Still filled with wonder on July 4

The staccato “pop-pop-pop” rings out across the neighborhood just as dusk settles in. A whistling bottle rocket explodes with a colorful bang. Sparklers crackle and sizzle in the hands of bewitched children (and some grown up kids.)

All of it is music to my ears.

We’ve settled into what has long been one of my favorite times of the years. The Fourth of July has always been special for me. Of course, the historical significance of Independence Day factored into my appreciation, but the holiday expanded beyond 1776 and those founding fathers who voted to break from a tyrannical monarchy.

As the unofficial half-way point of summer, it was a chance to enjoy good food, good friends and maybe a dip in the lake, while understanding that these warm months and lazy days were going to be fleeting.

But what always got me most was the fireworks.

I could think of nothing better than spreading out a blanket with my family, cooler packed with snacks, to wait in anticipation of the first big boom. Once the show started, I would stare up at the sky as pyrotechnics burst into the familiar shapes — chrysanthemums, spiders, waterfalls and all of the rest. There was a special feeling after the grand finale, when minutes of noisy explosions quieted and silence settled over the crowds.

Even as an adult, it was rare to miss a Fourth of July fireworks show. If it happened, I could count on the people in my neighborhood to stage their own display in the skies over our homes. On occasion, those displays got a little bit too close for comfort; we’ve found cardboard remnants of past shows in our yard and on our roof.

Anthony has developed an appreciation for fireworks as he’s grown older. When he was young, nothing could be further from the truth, as the loud noises woke him as a baby and frightened him as a toddler.

A pair of good kid-sized ear protectors solved the problem, and now he can’t wait to commentate on each firework as it goes off. It helps that his birthday is just two days before July 4; he kind of thinks we’ve organized the show just for him.

This year, the holiday arrives in a muted fashion, even as we get ready to enjoy our first restriction-free Fourth of July since the pandemic started. A seemingly unending stream of bad news hasn’t helped get in a festive mood.

Still, there will be celebration at our home. We’ll grill hot dogs and burgers while sitting out on the patio. I’ve already picked up the sparklers to twirl as the sun sets, and my tackiest patriotic shirt is ready to go. Best of all, fireworks are being launched nearby our house, which means we don’t have to travel far to see the show.

My head will be tilted up towards the stars, filled with wonder, just like every year.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.