Ashland tradition smolders

Imiss fireworks on the Fourth of July. Maybe this sounds selfish, like I'm putting my own pleasure before the safety of the Ashland watershed, but it's true. I grew up in Ashland, my family always bought fireworks (though my parents would never agree to get any of the super loud ones that sounded like screaming feral cats, much to my disappointment) and I never once started even the smallest of grass fires. If starting miniature forest fires was part of the traditional Independence Day celebrations for some people then I'm jealous. I definitely missed out on some major excitement. My parents would only do fireworks the boring way, on an asphalt black top with a bucket of water nearby — I should have known we were missing out on something.

Now that I'm a parent myself I was working on building my own family traditions. So far the Fourth of July was set in stone. My son, Silas, would eat a large pile of candy for breakfast while watching the parade and then bounce off the walls in a glucose-induced craze for a while. In the afternoon I would force him to listen to the mayor read the Declaration of Independence while he threw himself on the ground complaining of a level of boredom which he was certain bordered on lethal. For dinner we would have a nice crispy black hot dog (a Cajun dog! They're my specialty). Then it would get dark and Silas would finally get to burn his toes on a sparkler before we'd settle in to the grass to watch the city's firework display. The holidays: If they don't include a lot of sugar, a little crying and a bit of fire then they really don't count for anything on my calendar (you all should definitely see the way I celebrate Christmas!).

Independence Day is about celebrating being an American. The fireworks ban gets in the way of that for me. What could possibly be more American than eating greasy, burnt food all day, standing in a long line for a Port-O-Potty, and having an annual opportunity to release that inner burning desire to set things on fire? Of course I don't want the watershed to go up like a giant box of matches, but I don't think a citywide fireworks ban really protects it. People are still buying fireworks, and people are still going to burn toes and fingers, but now people are forced to burn their fireworks in areas that are less safe than before. Instead of being able to use the big blacktops at schools, people are using their own backyards and driveways, and possibly driving themselves up into the watershed itself. The City Council hasn't gotten rid of personal fireworks with this ban; they've simply driven them underground, a dangerous place to be for any combustible item.

One of the great things about using fireworks to celebrate an American holiday is that fireworks are actually an ancient Chinese invention. If we're going to ban fireworks I think that we should start thinking about other ancient traditions that we may want to introduce to our list of Fourth of July festivities. Unfortunately a quick internet search proved to me that most of these either include fire or nudity or both. I am going out on a limb here and declaring myself the first person to purpose a definite ban on setting off fireworks in the buff. Otherwise I think the City Council should lighten up and bring back fireworks, even if it's with a few more restrictions this time. One of those restrictions should be a ban on those screaming feral cat fireworks within a one block radius of my house.

Zoë Abel celebrated the Fourth of July the way she celebrates most major occurrences, by taking a nap. She woke up for the important parts, and you can e-mail her about anything she missed at

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