New Year's Eve Fireworks past and present
|The fireworks would begin in several hours. A few stars shivered in the East. John Springer shivered on his south facing backyard deck too. He’d shoveled the snow off it in preparation for tonight’s New Year’s Eve party. In the sunny winter afternoon his jacket provided sufficient warmth, but now the cold was biting. Blowing out smoke, he placed the cigarette back between his lips. He wished he’d put on gloves. Arm pits would have to suffice for now. He wouldn’t be out here for much longer. Turning to look west, the sky was a radiant explosion of purple, blue, and rose. Smiling inwardly he saw the setting sun produce a glowing, neon outline on each of the clouds. Well what do you know, John thought, a silver lining.
Behind him the sliding glass door slid open a crack. “Grandpa, why are you outside?” asked his 5 year old granddaughter. His other grandchildren lined up across the glass, pressing hands and noses against it to peer out from a brightly lit dining room into the darkening night. His 3 year old grandson slapped both of his hands on the glass repeatedly and squealed with joy.
“I’ll be in, in about a minute,” he said. The aromas of a holiday dinner reached his nose through the gap. Then the door slid closed with a bang, and the children ran off shrieking with merriment. John took another pull on his cigarette.
Smoking reminded him of Vietnam. That’s where he’d picked the habit up. He’d tried to quit several times over the years. He’d even managed it once for several months. But acting on a drunken, self-destructive urge during another bout of PTSD he’d taken it up again. Actually, now that he thought about it, it occurred on a previous New Year’s Eve. Any holiday involving fireworks triggered depression. The fireworks reminded him of battle noise, tracers, and explosions. Hot Fourth of July’s were the worst. The humidity and sweat added to his immersion into jungle combat memories of horror, dread, blood, and death.
Finished with his cigarette, he twisted his foot on the butt. Gazing into the house, he took in the picture of his wife, her sister, their sons and daughters all involved in cooking a large festive dinner. He could see his mother in the living room in a recliner. Running back and forth from one end of the house to the other a Boston terrier followed by a herd of grandchildren created a clamor. He loved these chaos filled family gatherings.
Past experience had taught John he would not be able to join them on the deck for the fireworks at midnight. Retreating to his basement office he would block the explosions by listening to 60’s music through his ear buds. He would concentrate on memories of his war buddies bantering and horsing around. He prayed they had found a way to cope with their ghosts and demons as he had. And when the fireworks were over, John would climb the stairs to the warm love of his extended family, filled with joy and hope for a wonderful new year.