Fireworks Sound Like War from Here

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I didn’t see the Fourth of July fireworks in Newport this year, but I heard them. Fireworks + migraine is a painful combination. I stood in my back yard in the dark. Pop pop pop pop BANG! I felt the air pulsating. Popopopopopop bang boom boom whoosh BANG! Oh my aching head.

The official city fireworks show started at 10 p.m., but the private fireworks in the neighborhood and on the beach started much earlier. The four miles of trees between my house and Yaquina Bay kept me from seeing the colored lights in the sky, but I could smell the smoke and see a yellow glow reflecting off the clouds. It felt more like a war than a celebration. I have never been in an actual war, thank God, but why would anyone want to reenact those sounds? And how do all these warlike noises affect people who have experienced war, who live with fear and post-traumatic stress?

Dogs don’t like fireworks. They howl, shake and cower, sure the world is ending. My Annie used to hide in the dark under my desk, trembling for hours. She can’t hear anymore. Usually that makes me sad. But last night I was grateful. She slept through even the loudest booms.

I took out my hearing aids and closed all the windows, but I could still hear the noise. I turned on my TV to continue my Netflix marathon, but after one particularly loud bang, the Internet went out. Boom boom boom, pop pop pop pop bang.

The fireworks made me especially uneasy this year because we’re having a drought and everyone is worried about wildfires. We live in the trees. Although the coast is usually damp and cool, it has been very dry and unusually warm this year. One errant spark, and the trees could catch fire. The city of Waldport, 10 miles south of here, outlawed all personal fireworks this year. People grumbled, but doing without fireworks is surely better than watching your house burn down. They did offer their usual city fireworks display on July 3. Not feeling well then either, I missed it.

Turn off the fireworks. Let me hear the ocean waves and the summer wind. I don’t want to hear what sounds like gunshots and bombs.

I understand why people gather to watch fireworks, especially this year. We’re not only celebrating the birth of the United States of America but our release from COVID fear and restrictions. I have many fond memories of watching fireworks with loved ones at my side. I enjoy the colors and designs flashing in the sky. Back in the ‘80s, when we lived near the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, they shot off fireworks every night at closing time. Fred and I watched from our front porch. It was magic every night. I’ve watched fireworks from baseball stadiums, grassy fields, amphitheaters, beaches, parking lots, and curbs. But it’s no fun watching them alone.

I have vowed to find some way to stop spending my holidays by myself. I usually start out telling myself it’s no big deal. I’m lucky I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to coordinate my plans with anyone else. But at some point, I start feeling bad. I cry. I wail about the unfairness of not having parents, husband, or children and living so far from the rest of my family. I drink a beer, watch another episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” and make dinner for myself, so lonely I can’t stand it. I get a migraine headache.

One of my best friends moved away in May. Another died in January. The rest are busy with their families. This sounds like whining, but I can’t stand it anymore. I need to either move into some kind of group housing or find a way to be with other people on the holidays. Yes, I can drive 1,300 miles to hang out with my brother’s family—and I will for Thanksgiving—but there must be some way to gather closer to home.

I’m sure I’m not the only one alone on every holiday. Let’s get together. Any Oregon coasties want to join me in a no-more-holidays-alone coalition? Let’s make a pact to keep each other company, share great meals, exchange gifts when appropriate, and do it up right. If someone else will drive, let’s go watch fireworks together next year so it feels less like a war and more like the celebration that was intended. I’ll bring the beer.

P.S. After 11 hours without, I have Internet! An article in Time Magazine reports that the first Fourth of July fireworks display took place during the Revolutionary War. In addition to the flashy fireworks, people shot off guns and cannons. In a letter to his wife Abigail, President John Adams wrote of Independence Day: “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” And so it is.

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Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

7 thoughts on “Fireworks Sound Like War from Here”

  1. My granddaughter, Anna, was with me for the 4th. We had a very full day with church and Sunday school in the morning, lunch with John’s sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She had a ball.
    After everyone left, she and I watched some kiddy movie. But she was sound asleep before the first boom


  2. Sue, I’ve had similar problems. Son and Grandchildren permanently living in Germany. I found using the internet programs such as Skype or Messenger is a great help. Family gatherings every week…watching the grandchildren develop and living thru Son’s battle with Covid 19…over 3 months in a coma then watching him slowly come back.. He is learning to walk. If you feel like you want to talk to someone then give me a call. A great Lady (Laura Lively) lived a couple of house away. Her husband passed away and Michele and I became her second family. I would talk to two or three tines a week…She recently passed away shortly after reaching her 100th birthday. Enough chit chat, the offer is there.. If you feel like talking, just call me. John


  3. Sue about dogs not liking fireworks. I live in the country outside city limits where people shoot fireworks all around. My poor dog is terrified of them. I always try to comfort him and keep him close while they are going off. My husband overrode me this year and allowed my stepdaughter to shoot fireworks. I was so hurt. Why torment animals this way? I love my fur babies so much.


  4. Hey, Sue, I understand about loneliness. After a good eighteen year marriage, I was divorced at age 38 and firmly located 3,000 miles away from my family and basic support group. Luckily many other folks tried to help out by inviting me to all sorts of events and dinners and parties–still the lone one–and often feeling that sometimes being alone was better than just passing time with strangers or worse, people I didn’t much cotton to. That became my choice, to spend my time wisely and valuably, in my estimation, so I began to decline parties just for party’s sake and to stick with a lesser number of folks I really did enjoy. I formed a 3-woman musical trio; we would rehearse after getting sushi-to-go and eating it at the dining room table with thimble martinis. We had so much fun! And another small group of friends taught me canoe-ing in upstate NY–just spectacular! And some colleague or another was available for readings or summer NYC symphony, opera, and ballet at Saratoga, their summer home. And I gave splendid dinner parties that basically took me a full week of preparation, including cleaning up the house, shopping, cooking. But they were epic. So I do think it’s best to be with people of similar interests, people you really like and enjoy. Often I was the one who instigated events I thought would be fun, with people I liked. For you I looked for the MeetUp sessions in Newport and found this one, which might appeal to you. Sounds like a great group of folks– Finding like-minded people who might also be alone for various reasons is a great idea. Who knows what genuine friendships or better might develop?


    1. That’s beautiful, Sandy. Thank you. Actually I gave a talk about my novel at that South Beach book club. They were great. Bravo for creating your own events. I hope to see you and Donny again one of these days.


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