Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fireworks & All That American Jazz

A towering cone of cotton candy: the
verdict? Sweet. And sticky
Last night was a first for us; on what was our fourth Independence Day spent overseas, we attended our first "real" 4th of July celebration. And by real I mean all of the food, games, festivities and of course fireworks that I remember from the Independence Days of my childhood. The celebration wasn't huge but it gave us the little piece of home that we didn't quite realize we were missing. And, most importantly and my absolute favorite part of the night, was introducing Sidney to his first All-American celebration. And that was pretty amazing.

Even when we were in the United States, we weren't carnival or fair people but last night's small dose of Americana was pretty darn nice. A portion of the base had been transformed into a fair grounds with super sized tents, music, food vendors and rides. With the exception of a few intermittent showers (which is impressive by Belgium standards) the evening was dry. While DJs played their music, pimply teenagers were on the prowl, toddlers ran around underfoot and crowds milled around the tents drinking American beers and eating all of the foods I associate with fairs. My pulled pork sandwich followed by funnel cake was one of the best things I had eaten in a long time. I contributed this to the fact that I have eaten neither of these items in years if not decades. Sidney's first foray into cotton candy was a sweet and sticky adventure but then again what child doesn't have memories of eating mounds of spun sugar.

Sidney watched the carnival rides with fascination immediately declaring that he wanted to ride on the biggest and scariest ride of them all. We talked him out of it and instead he happily rode the bumper cars with Glenn. I remember riding the bumper cars with my own father at the same age and little seems to have changed. Each bump was met with a peal of laughter and a request for more. Then there was the fun house and the giant slides that Sidney slide down over and over again. He contemplated a tilt-a-whirl which he studied for a long time. Sidney initially wanted to take a ride but after watching it spin for several turns decided to wait "until he is six". But because we are on a military base in Belgium the entertainment went beyond the traditional carnival rides. Period actors dressed was World War II attire stood along side jeeps and weaponry of the time. Kids tried on the helmets and tested the guns as parents snapped pictures. (I'll be honest, I never dreamed I'd be watching my son hop amongst the artillery at a carnival). But he loved it.

Because this was the Fourth, the highlight of the evening was the fireworks that concluded the evening. Now we saw a lot of fireworks while we were in Albania; they regularly lit the sky in bits and spurts throughout the year with New Years bringing about the biggest bang of them all. While their scale was impressive they were noisy, chaotic and tinged with a bit of danger. They lacked the artistic design of well orchestrated shows and most often left me feeling agitated. Sidney was equally impressed and scared by the Albanian fireworks. But last night? That was an entirely different story. As he laid on the grass on the edge of the baseball field looking up at the sky, he provided us with an ongoing commentary about their color, size and shape. His descriptions were punctuated with giggles of laughter and such adjectives as amazing, wonderful and magnificent.

Watching him watch the fireworks filled me with motherly happiness since my little boy was finally experiencing one of the joys from my own childhood. Sometimes I worry about the simple things he is missing out on because of our living overseas. He may have visited most of Europe's capitols but he's never experienced a real American Fourth of July. Until last night that is. And as we drove home close to midnight (after all it stays light really late here in Belgium) he continued to chatter excitedly about his evening. As he said, he had so much fun. I'm sure that many of his memories of his overseas childhood will only be fleeting in later years. I'm hopeful that last night is one of the ones he remembers.


Observing one of the rides. After
studying it Sidney informed us that when
he is six he will be big enough to ride it.


  1. It's wonderful to see things through the eyes of a child. If only we could hold onto that wonder and amazement. The moment is now, with you living in Belgium. I'd advise you to stop clinging to the land of your birth and accept the reality around you. This comes from an Australian living in England. Visiting from NaBlo ...

  2. Greetings from NaBloPoMo- love this story! One thing we never take into account is everyone who celebrates America's Holiday from another country, especially on a military base. Looking forward to reading more adventures from overseas and Belgium!