[Kathy->] grew up in New York in a neighborhood where fireworks were not permitted. As a result, though she and the kids have all enjoyed professional firework shows from a safe distance, none of them had ever visited the roadside fireworks stand and loaded up on black powder fueled fun. This year, I decided that we should remedy that sad deficit, and stopped with Kathy on a recent date to blow a bit of money on pyrotechnics.

One of the interesting things about this area is that twice a year, like mushrooms after a rain, several “Fireworks Superstores” spring up along Interstate 35. I’d never been in one of these warehouse-sized stores, since when growing up, we always bought our arsenal at whatever roadside stand had the best coupons in TV Guide that week. Kathy and I stopped in to see what the huge stores were like, and were rather daunted by the high-end supplies available there. From $100 wagon wheel-sized rolls of Black Cat firecrackers to the $230 finale display with customizable fuse connections to the Nascar-themed tailgate party package, the place was pretty amazing. The addition of chain-link fencing that separates customers from the merchandise and the local Christian radio station blaring praise music in the background only added to the surreal quality of the scene.

Though we were thoroughly impressed by our visit to the Fireworks Superstore, we decided that the $15 we were willing to spend would go a lot further at the nearby stand. The proprietors had laid out a sidewalk of plastic sheeting to permit customers to stay clean in spite of the recent rains which had turned the ground into a morass. The young lady who was helping us seemed a bit bemused by my enthusiastic grin as I reacquainted myself with some old favorites — blooming ground flowers, snakes, satellites, fountains, smoke balls, firecrackers, sparklers, roman candles, and pressure caps (the little ones that make a loud pop when you toss them on the ground). We hauled the whole mess home, and enjoyed an hour together setting off the more discreet ones in the backyard, hose at the ready.

The kids were enchanted, running around with sparklers waving, planting smoke balls in various places around the backyard, setting up snakes, adjusting the fins on the satellites for maximum lift, and tossing caps at each other’s feet. Kathy, Dan and I took turns lighting things for the kids and trying to take photos of the various things we were setting off. (The blooming ground flowers were special favorites, as the sparks shooting out looked really impressive.) We wrapped up with a crowd favorite –the Killer Bee, a fountain with whistling “bees” on the side which Kathy had picked.

We later went to the city show which, due to an amazing number of mosquitos, the crowds and traffic, and its meager nine-minute length, was universally voted a disappointment after our first family firework experience.