Fireworks, of any variety (romantic or, you know, the kind that actually explode in the sky), are quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. Top five at least. There’s always been something about lights for me, whether they be twinkle lights, Christmas lights, sparklers, or good ole’ fashioned stars. I’m immediately enthralled. In fact, I have a habit of picking restaurants based on who has the best string of lights decorating the outside of their building- but I digress. Fireworks. They’re fucking awesome. And so, when one of my best friends from high school asked me if I wanted to kayak down the Charles River to watch Boston’s 4th of July fireworks from the water, I said “yes.” Actually, I think I squealed, jumped around a bit, and then said, “Are you serious?!,” about 500 times…but “yes” is pretty much what all that conveys.
So, Wednesday morning I made the trek to Boston, armed with a flashlight, sneakers, and little to no knowledge of how to kayak. The day passed in a happy blur of window shopping, book store browsing, and some really strong margaritas, until finally, it was time to make our way to the launch point. (Side note-how cool is it to get to say that? “It was time to make our way to the launch point.” Bad ass. I feel like an astronaut. Or someone who kayaks. Either way- bad ass.) After the quickest safety course I have ever been a part of (“Here’s where you go to see the fireworks, don’t get too close to the barge, stay to the sides or you’ll get run over by rich people on boats.”), I was given a life jacket, an oar, and, finally, a kayak. My friend ( let’s call her Specs- she has awesome glasses) and I were going to be rocking out in a double kayak for the night, so we jumped in and started trying to steer away from the launch point (again, bad ass). After a few minutes (around 30 or so), we got the hang of it, and sped along the Charles toward some point that was approximately 4 miles away.
Let me pause for a moment here to talk about upper body strength. You don’t want to wait until you’re in the middle of a river in a kayak to start thinking about incorporating some push ups into your daily routine. Lesson painfully learned. Now, back to the story.
After about an hour of rowing, Specs and I arrived at the viewing point. Clusters of boats, kayaks and canoes sat in the water, waiting for the show to begin. As we reclined in our kayak, I started to notice bursts of light out of the corner of my eye. Lightning. Oh goody. It was around this time that we thought to ask a fellow water dweller what the estimated start time was: 10:30. It was 9.
Thunder began to start echoing across the water. we paddled forward to look for Specs’ friends, who had fallen behind in a four-person kayak. As we passed under a bridge, I became aware of the crowd: thousands of people lining the shore. I couldn’t help but smile. We had the absolute best seats in the house- the barge that held the fireworks was directly in front of us. We sat, listening to the Boston Pops, floating back and forth, waiting. And then, about five minutes before the fireworks were scheduled to begin, it started to sprinkle. Tiny droplets of warm rain. Now, we were already soaked from the decent amount of flailing it had taken us to reach our destination, so a little bit of rain was nothing. Child’s play. I turned to joke with Specs about the ridiculousness of the situation- sitting in a slowly filling kayak in the middle of a crowd of equally endangered kayaks and canoes- when a burst of color made my head snap back to the front. Without any
forewarning, the fireworks had begun to fill the sky. My jaw subsequently dropped. I had never seen anything like it. The sheer size of the fireworks was stunning, not to mention the variety of shapes and colors that exploded across the the harbor in a continuous stream. (Heart-shaped fireworks. HEARTS!) As I stared, slack-jawed, up at the show, the rain started getting heavier. And heavier. A torrential downpour of lukewarm rain pummeled our little kayak (and my face), creating a wall between me and the fireworks. The sane reaction would have been annoyance, concern for the kayak, or even a shuffling of clothing to try to slow the attack. But me? I laughed. I doubled over in the kayak, overcome with the insanity of my evening. Kayaking 4 miles to sit in a rain-filled kayak, watching the most beautiful fireworks I had ever seen.
The rain eventually slowed, and then stopped, while the fireworks continued to get better and better. As I watched the finale, a barrage of colors that literally filled the sky, I felt a wave of gratitude and awe crash over me. How lucky was I to be experiencing this?
And then I remembered…I still had to paddle 4 miles back. My arms became dead weight at the thought, silently protesting the hour-long rowing party that was about to begin. Needless to say, Pocahontas was lying when she sang “just around the river bend.” Bitch.