I survived the long Fourth of July weekend without a seizure! Huzzah! Fireworks are not just the normal type of dangerous, explosions of fire. They are also dangerous flashing lights. Suffering from photosensitive epilepsy is a liability on holidays and events that involve pyrotechnics. This year in Erie it was big time. Fireworks have been going off all over town for days! It’s the 200 year anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie. It’s kind of a big deal around here. Our town’s pride and joy is the Brig Niagara, a flagship that played a crucial role in said battle, on September 10, 1813!
During this pivotal battle when the lead ship The Lawrence began to sink, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry boarded a rowboat and took his battle flag, bright blue with white lettering, “Don’t give up the Ship!” Perry rowed across the lake, presumably dodged several cannonballs, and took charge of the Brig Niagara. Then he proceeded to decisively win the battle and change the course of the war! His field report was brief. “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
So it’s quite the historical year here, which calls for even more fireworks than usual. On Thursday night, there were no less than 6 different places setting off large firework displays. I watched them from the safe distance of my parent’s pool deck, overlooking the city. I was away from the booming strobe lights that are the worst for me. I could see four separate locations across the city exploding in miniature lightshows. The mini fireworks were of no concern. Several of the neighbors where putting on shows of their own. These were a bit more concerning. There were competing fireworks displays going off all around us. The size and magnitude varied between legal and illegal fireworks.
In Pennsylvania you can only buy fireworks of a somewhat small size. However, if you have an out of state license you can buy a higher grade of explosive celebration at the exact same location. And even if you don’t have an out of state friend, living in the Tri-State area gives you some options when it comes to purchasing fireworks. Erie County is only about 40 miles wide. You can always drive to Ohio to take advantage of Ohio’s somewhat more lax state of affairs.
Of course, driving to Ohio to get fireworks is always a dangerous endeavor. Someone’s car might fall apart in front of you! They don’t require car inspections in the state of Ohio! True story, I once saw an ancient, rusted out, truck from the 40s or 50s speeding down Interstate 90, outside of Cleveland, with a moldy, rotten, 2 X 4 for a front bumper. Yea Ohio! Buy some illegal fireworks and go to town!
We had our own annual display of legal fireworks in the backyard. We had Sparklers and Cascading Fountains. I didn’t watch those for very long. The flashing lights burnt into my skull and excited my brain dangerously. My son asked me why I was even there, at the bonfire watching the display. He chastised me, “Mom, it’s all flashing lights. That’s what fireworks are!” He was right to worry. I should know better than to watch at all.
Some fireworks aren’t so bad. But some combinations of light are simply poisonous to me. I must beware. I closely monitored my flashing light intake. I was quick to cover my eyes when it started to get too intense. I cupped my eyes and closed them for extra measure even though I couldn’t see anything. I waited for the fireworks to pass.
Just closing your eyes doesn’t help, it’s not enough. The flashing lights will shine right through your eyelids into your brain anyway. I often have to cup my eyes to block out commercials or the intro to The Big Bang Theory. (That opening is a seizure just waiting to happen!) I didn’t stay at the fire. I went up the hill and sat by the pool, a safe distance away from all the malicious exploding lights.
I’m not sure what exothermic chemical reactions have to do with Independence, but it’s something I just have to tolerate and moderate. I wish I could just enjoy the show like everybody else. But I can’t. I have met the enemy and it is mine.
Still, “Don’t give up the Ship!”