Saturday, July 6, 2013

At The Crossroads

We went camping over the 4th of July just a half-hour north of home. This put me outside Cedar Springs, about 8 miles east and north of where I grew up. When I was a kid, my siblings and I would pester our parents to take us to the fair in Sand Lake, another village just a few miles further north and east. Most times they didn't take us, and I can barely remember the few times when they did.

Since I was camping nearby, I decided to take a drive to see the fireworks. But I wasn't as anxious to see them as when I was a kid, or even my wife is now. Thus, I was desirous to minimize the commitment of time and trouble. I had a novel I was reading, and it is on my iPad so I decided I could drive somewhere nearby and sit in the car.

I took a little side road, White Pine Drive up to 22 Mile Road, the county line which is another strip of two-lane blacktop. Then drove toward Sand Lake. The major highway, 131, has an interchange there, and I was surprised to see a bunch of cars parked around the exit and entrance ramps. I pulled over and parked in the first gap I found. It was beside the crossroads of 22 Mile and a little access road.

There's nothing special about this spot. It's just a convenient place to pull off to the side of the road. We were a mile or so outside of Sand Lake.

We got out of the car and the mosquitoes were tolerable. We parked behind a pickup truck my wife dubbed "the clown car" because kids and adults just kept pouring out of the thing. I was anxious for the kids who were running around with their parents hollering at them. Happily, nobody got into the roadway. There wasn't even a scare, which was a blessing.

As dusk settled in the folks in cars milled about and I saw something I'd never seen before. Michigan relaxed its fireworks laws a couple years ago and now normal citizens had fireworks worth looking at. A citizen would get out of his car, walk out to the edge of an adjacent cornfield, then set off a few fireworks.

Like I said, these were a lot more impressive than anything citizens had when I was a kid. And five minutes after his stuff went off another citizen would get out of his car and do likewise. I noticed that fireworks were doing off at every point of the compass around me. And this was decent stuff.

This went on until dusk became dark. And then Sand Lake's display started up. It was as almost impressive as the displays I've become accustomed to seeing in Grand Rapids and its rich neighbor East Grand Rapids. While it was going on, I could spot on the horizon fireworks displays from other places like Camp Lake and others I could only speculate about.

It struck me at this crossroads beside a freeway interchange that this is America.

There are a lot of people you might never see anywhere but Walmart with tattoos on their women and wife-beater t-shirts on their men, while the kids were running around like Indians. But watching the fireworks together told me, that, better or worse, this is my country.

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