On the 4th…

Every summer, from the time my daughter was 3 until she was 8 or so, we would take a cabin for a week in Blue Hill Maine.  The main cabin sat on a small inlet, with a clear view to Acadia, in fact, the header photo is much what we could see from the balcony.

This week away was a “return” to the summers I had as a child. Pack up kid, dogs and some books: head out to a week of ocean scents, sun, water and relaxation. It was a moment much like the coast of Scotland, but only a five hour drive away from home.

One of the only planned activities that became a tradition was the journey over to Castine, home of the Maine Maritime Academy, and one of the largest and best fireworks displays I have ever seen.

The firemen of the town use this event as a boot drive, to gain contributions for equipment and to offset the cost of staging the event.  Run from 3 to 5 barges in the harbor, the people start flowing in to town to ‘get a spot’ on the dock, or claim their piece of sidewalk, porch swing or lawn.

Grab an ice cream cone for us, and a small plate of vanilla for the dogs, we would find a piece of wall, not on the docks, not on the sidewalk, but at one of the many stone walls that overlook the harbor. And we would wait.

People would stop to talk to the dogs, the kid would wander about on the lawn behind where I sat, playing ball or hide and seek with other kids waiting to see the show.  Then, as the gods flashed the lobby lights and sent everyone to their seats, dusk peeked over the horizon, and the moon would slowly rise.  As the sky went from a soft blue to the velvet smoke blue that was typical of the night sky, the first of many fireworks would start the show…


Amid the ooh’s of the assembled crowd, the dogs would look at the falling colors with wonderment, backing in close because the noise, although not overloud was an unfamiliar one.  C would get all excited and whisper in a voice that was not a whisper “it’s starting! it’s going to be the best ever. I will remember this always”.

The first few rounds allow you moments to enjoy, a build up to a single highlighted display of color and shape


“Purple look at the purple Mum!” would be the same each year “Mac, are you seeing it? What about you Pudge? You need to look at them” she admonished the dogs.  The dogs, much to their credit, were busily staring at anyone who still had food, usually a child with an ice cream. Waiting patiently for the moment it could possibly be theirs. All interest in noise or its aftermath was long gone.

In the build up toward the finale, the multitude of pops, bangs, and whizzing noises had dulled my normal “jump at a noise” reactions to near stillness.  Far enough away from the worst of the noise, and insulated from it by the crowd between us and the barge as they sat and congregated on the wharf and the street, it was bearable. I’m not a huge fan of noise, even less amenable to sudden ones.


The reddish pink ball of color, several streaking across the night sky and reflecting on the water, as their remnants rained down to sizzle signaled the finale.  A near constant barrage to eyes and ears, color everywhere, streaking out to a singular white ball of light, exploding into a multi-armed cacophony of red, white and blue sparkles.

The crowd would disperse, many heading to a take-away that served fish and clam plates, we would grab an order of fries and some seafood, and munch contentedly on the ride back to the cabin. C chattering away about the favorite colors (always the purple) and the firemen who gave all the kids little mementos, and the kids she met, and anything else that caught her fancy.

It isn’t often that I want to rewind and have a do-over.  This is one of the few moments that I would gladly revisit. Weekly.

2 thoughts on “On the 4th…

  1. Actually, that brings back memories…summers of ’68-’70 I worked on Mt. Desert Island and saw the fireworks in Bar Harbor. Of course, as teens/20s we rather parodied everything…going “ah…oooh” rather than the other way around, and calling out the wrong colors to confuse the small children nearby.

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