A Holiday Tribute

Marcus celebrating the 4th of July, circa 1981.

Marcus celebrating the 4th of July, circa 1981.

Growing up, we had a ritual every Fourth of July.

Before the holiday, my mom or dad would drive outside the St. Louis County line to buy fireworks. We usually ended up at a place called Molly Brown’s, a firework store frequently advertised on billboards, located about 10 miles southwest of our house.

But the fireworks weren’t for me. They were for Marcus.

Every year, he would set off fireworks in the driveway, illuminated by the street lamps and the lightning bugs speckling the summer air with their glow. We’re not talking bottle rockets or sparklers, of which he seemed rather unenthused with — bring on the Roman candles, ground and aerial spinners, and a dazzling array of floral bouquets to cast into the sky.

In short: The bigger, the brighter, the better.

What fascinated Marcus about fireworks? Was it the colors that he liked? Or was it the thrill of amateur pyrotechnics?

Marcus 12 years old learning to light fireworks.

Marcus, about 10 years old, learning to light fireworks in the daylight.

To light these fireworks — at night — Marcus peered closely to the wick to light it up. His face was no greater than two inches from the light-up point. Once lit, Marcus excitedly giggled, exclaimed his standard,  Buh! Buh!” then quickly took a few steps back, so he could safely admire his handiwork exploding in the sky.

For the untrained eye, it was a nearly absurd scenario: How are you going to let a legally blind person light up fireworks…in the dark?

What always amazes me about my parents is how they had to let go of their own fear to let Marcus live.  That’s why they allowed Marcus to explore by foot, walking miles a day just to see what was out there. That’s why they sent him across the country to Helen Keller National Center. And that’s why, as dangerous as it seems, they let him set off fireworks each year.

Marcus died of cancer on July 4, 1997. The holiday remains his.

2 Responses to “A Holiday Tribute”

  1. Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I loved this blog post. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

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