I have a love/hate relationship with fireworks. Every year, I tell myself I’m not going to watch them — the crowds, the noise, and my overtired children swinging from giddiness to tears. And then, inevitably, as the day’s festivities build, I experience a Pavlovian sense of anticipation for fireworks shimmering in the night sky.
When I was growing up on Cousins Island, in Casco Bay, we’d congregate on the bridge on the Fourth. On a clear night, we’d see multiple displays from Portland to Freeport — sometimes beyond. The memory is so vivid I can almost feel the rough bridge railing on my hands and smell the warm ocean air.
I’ve spent a few recent Fourths at Toddy Pond, in Surry, and there you get the surround-sound experience on a smaller scale. The lake is dotted with camps that send up fireworks from the shore. Usually it’s just enough to satisfy my craving.
One year, we went to the packed and bustling riverfront in Brewer to watch the Bangor display. Another, my daughter watched Portland’s fireworks with her cousins on the Eastern Prom and reported feeling the ash fall on her face.
Last year, I listened to the booms in Freeport as I sat on my parents’ deck. My middle child is not yet a fan of fireworks, so I stayed behind with him while everyone else flocked to the field behind Morse Street School. When the bangs and thuds scared him, we went inside and watched the New York City display on TV. A decade ago, I watched those East River fireworks from the roof of my 14th Street apartment, as the simmering heat of the concrete city rose around me.
This year, we’ll stay close to home and watch the bursts of color rain over Camden Harbor, their flashes lighting up the water and silhouetting the masts of the magnificent windjammers that anchor here. As far as hometown displays go, I’m grateful to call this one — and the community that celebrates it — our own.