Last week, J and I headed downtown for the Boston 4th of July fireworks spectacular, armed with a picnic blanket, a Frisbee, and two bulging bags of food and water. We staked out a spot on a velvety MIT lawn, behind neat hedges (a bit removed from the crowd along the river), with assorted friends from church (many of whom also hail from Abilene). The boys immediately ran off to play Frisbee, while we girls got down to the serious business of snacking and gabbing. We did full justice to Abi’s potato salad, Nate’s homemade salsa, Kurt’s red velvet cupcakes, and my chocolate-chip cookie bars – as well as fruit and pretzels and raw veggies with ranch dip and hummus.
There were photos and games of Scattergories and so much laughter. We scrambled to our feet when “The Star-Spangled Banner” played and coated ourselves with bug spray as the sun went down. And about nine o’clock, I began watching anxiously as lightning flashed across the clouds to the north.
The Boston Pops played on, but the authorities eventually called for a mass evacuation because of thunderstorms in the area. We were lucky to have the keys to a friend’s spacious apartment on MIT’s campus, so about a dozen of us decamped there, eating more chips and salsa and watching the local news for updates.
Eventually, we received the all-clear signal, and joined the crowds streaming back toward the Charles. The moment we spread our blankets out again (mere yards from where we’d been earlier), it started sprinkling. The fireworks began anyway – but our shift in vantage points meant we couldn’t see anything over the trees.
We pulled up the blankets and ran through the rain, coming to a stop in the middle of Memorial Drive. The fireworks lit up the sky in red and green and gold, as the heavens opened. Sputtering and laughing, we pulled our blankets over our heads, peering out to witness one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen.
We stood under our blanket-tents as the rain sluiced down our legs and soaked our tennis shoes, then removed them as it let up. We watched bursts of sparkle light up the cloudy sky, and as the show paused to take a breath before its finale, we heard the strains of a familiar hymn:
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”
Nate and Jeremiah and I grinned at each other, faces lighting up as we remembered singing that song every year at Opening Assembly with our college choir. I am more inclined, these days, to believe that God’s truth sidles and sneaks up and whispers instead of marching on, but I do still believe it is everywhere – and the melody still gives me chills.
We stood side by side in the rain and sang along, the explosions so loud no one could hear us, but it didn’t matter. I was with some of my favorite people, in the city I call mine, singing a song whose words resonate in my bones. We had spent the evening soaking in the kind of relaxed, open-ended hangout time that happens all too rarely. And we were topping it off with a song that has been part of the story of our friendship for nearly a decade, while the white-gold, spangled fireworks (my favorite) flashed above us in the sky.
Despite my wet socks and ringing ears, my only reaction was gratitude. As Shanna noted, the imperfections of the evening made it all the more fun – and definitely more memorable.
How was your 4th of July?