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Fireworks at 14


June 28, 2012

There is nothing a 14-year-old boy likes better than an explosion, and nothing more entertaining than a night of fireworks. At least so it is with my son, Sam, whose teenage solution to all problems is the wise-ass comment: “Let’s blow it up.” He says this just to irk me, I know, but it does convey a glimpse into the workings of his teenage brain, even if it sounds a bit clichéd.

For his recent birthday, Sam’s requests were varied: lemon cake, a collection of Shakespeare’s plays and fireworks. And, as part of the occasion, we took a trip to Mess’s Fireworks, a factory outlet store in Great Bend, PA. Sam and his friend traipsed the aisles of the warehouse in awe, feverishly calculating how many Roman candles, camellia flowers and mortars they could procure for $50. Just the names of all the available pyrotechnics were fun—“neighbor hater,” “total chaos,” “bigger than life” (fountain style), “cruel mistress” (mortars) and “friendship pagoda,” to name a few. Exploding chickens, frogs and lady bugs figured prominently. You can even get a wooden Howwitzer 105MM artillery crate to store your fireworks in.

It was amusing to watch the kids, as well. But I also felt a little wistful when I remembered taking Sam for a tour of Marshall Machinery on his fourth birthday. Then, he was vibrating with excitement as we strolled in the grassy field filled with tractors and farm equipment, without a bit of money spent.

These days, the kids can hardly wait till dark to start firing things off and roll their eyes at my continual safety warnings. “We know, we know,” they say. This is not like you are just eating a little “play-doh” I think, remembering that dough’s enormous culinary appeal to their two-year-old selves. Plus, if there is anything I know about fireworks, it is that bigger is better. You might start small with a firecracker taped to a cardboard airplane, followed by the combustion of an old rat-haired Barbie doll and so forth, addictively progressing up the fire food chain, until before you know it the house is on fire.