Most people who attend displays of fireworks "ooh" and "aah" during the performance. This story is about the year we started exclaiming before the fireworks were ever detonated.
In July 1984, our son, Ari, was a smidgen over 2 years old and in need of nearly constant activity. Therefore, getting to the bluffs in Newport Beach, Calif., three hours ahead of the fireworks display over Fashion Island necessitated having a host of activities for Ari until the real excitement began.
Yes, we had a bucket of Legos. Yes, we had two parents and one loving grandmother entertaining him. Yes, we had toys – but by 8 p.m., the natives – one very short one in particular – were getting restless. Very restless.
The bluffs were rapidly filling with people who were scrunching together happily to make room for the newcomers and their blankets. This made what happened next easier to accomplish.
One of us got the big idea to explain to Ari what we were supposed to do once the fireworks started exploding. So we practiced our best "ooohhhs" of surprise and "aaahhhs" of utter amazement.
Ari began to get the hang of this and started oohing and aahing along with the adults. It was like the scene in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" in which the Whos down in Whoville happily sing Christmas carols with no presents at all. Like the Whos, we were having plenty of fun with no fireworks at all.
The families on either side of us picked up the chorus. Yes, there were those who looked around in wide-eyed amazement in all directions to see what fireworks we were praising, and seeing none, wondered what in the blazes we were doing.
But soon even they caught the humor of the moment. They joined in with complete abandon, not caring what others farther away thought about the situation.
Eventually, everyone up and down the bluffs was oohing and aahing inthe same cadence, with the same exuberance, and in a lovely four-part harmony when the really low basses crooned along.
Considering that there were several hundred people along the bluffs that night, we had quite a rambunctious chorus!
And thus, in rapt enchantment, we oohed and aahed for nearly an hour before the actual fireworks began. In fact, a groan went up from many throats when the real fireworks finally lit up the California night – because for a moment or two, it was not nearly as exciting as the invisible fireworks we had been praising so loudly.
That attitude evaporated after a couple of spectacular explosions, and soon all of us – Ari included – were cheering the very visible fireworks with real enthusiasm.