Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Baseball and Fireworks

Over Labor Day weekend we went to a Redbird’s game. (It was our first game of the season even though it was their last.) We sat on the grassy bluff on a blanket with several other families we knew. Satchel ran up and down the hill with a little girl from his school named Lucy who coincidentally was at the game with her family. When not running around, the kids were playing catch, snacking on popcorn, popsicles, cheese sticks, fruit snacks, trail mix, and other assorted goodies, gawking at cicadas, or going back and forth to the playground. Meanwhile various configurations of parents chatted while holding one or more children in their laps. Warren, and maybe some of the other dads, actually kept up with the score and knew what inning it was.

Normally I am antsy (if not down right stressed) at after hours events, but I was surprisingly relaxed, and blissfully unaware of the hands on my watch. In addition to the impromptu birthday celebration that brought us all here, the big draw of the evening was the promise of fireworks at the end.

Warren, and now Satchel, live for fireworks. “Want to come to the playground with me and Jiro?” I asked Satchel during the 4th inning.

“No, I want to see FIREWORKS,” he screeched from a blanket he was now sharing with Lucy and her mom.

When the game finally ended, dance music started blaring from the speakers. People everywhere, including Satchel and Jiro, started dancing and jumping and wiggling with delight as the lights dimmed and crews started covering the field with large tarps. After fifteen minutes of buildup, the fireworks started in full force. Satchel snuggled up to Lucy and stared in wide-eyed amazement. Jiro looked at me with the same wide-eyes, but they were filled with fear. I cradled him in my lap and tried to reassure him that everything was fine, and gently explained to him that the colorful explosions just inches from our head were fun.

Jiro had seen fireworks before, in July, over the Mississippi River, but they were nowhere near as close as these. I looked around and saw many of my friends embracing their terrified children. Even a four-year-old was in tears. I let out a laugh and shouted to my friend who organized the outing, “Fireworks! Great idea!”

“Should I get this on film?” she joked back.

I went back to the trembling baby in my arms. I held him closer, shhhhed in his ear, and rocked him gently. “It’s okay,” I assured him. But he wasn’t assured. He continued to look terrorized and after a few minutes (this was a marathon fireworks display!) he actually started to doze off—a side effect of the adrenaline rush. (I experienced the same thing ten years earlier after being chased by a mama elephant in Cameroon—once safe in the car, I immediately fell asleep.)

Remembering my own traumatic experience, I couldn’t help but reflect on Hurricane Katrina. I suddenly felt awash in luck. (Or maybe just privilege.) It was easy to console Jiro now. I wasn’t scared and I knew that the fireworks would be over soon without incident. I tried to imagine how I would offer comfort to my children in the middle of a hurricane. How I could ever assure them that everything would be okay again.

Prior to the baseball game, I had logged many hours in front of CNN. I watched as a two-year-old was airlifted into a helicopter and placed in her mother’s lap. She’s not even crying I marveled. I looked closer at this brave child. Her eyes were completely glazed over. She’s in shock I realized. Then I immediately burst into tears.

Before I could get too deep in the tragic thoughts lingering in my head, the fireworks stopped. Satchel started cheering and dancing, “Yay fireworks!” He and Lucy hugged each other and rolled down the bluff one last time. Jiro woke up, gave me a hug, and then seemed back to normal. I looked around and all of the other formally frightened kids were back to their “happy to be up past their bedtime” selves.

As I rolled up our blanket and loaded it back into our bag, I prayed that little girl in the helicopter was somewhere safe, running and laughing under this same calm September sky.


Stephanie said...

I heard a story about a New Orleans woman who was putting her family on an evacuation bus to go to Houston, and she handed her baby to someone on the bus so that she could load the rest of her stuff, and they closed the doors and drove off. She got a policeman to help her and it all worked out, but I have teared up thinking about that story at least once a day since the hurricane hit.

On a lighter note, Connor has never seen fireworks, but next to fart noises they are Chip's favorite thing.

Lisa Deanne said...

Awww... fireworks... Tyla still hasn't seen any! I'm too attached to her early bedtime. Lovely day/night and it is important to realize how lucky we are!

Ali said...

Kids are so dang resilient, it's the mammas that I cry for.

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