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OPINION | GARY SMITH: An explosive moment: Handing the lighter to the next generation

Making way for a new firecracker generation by Gary Smith | July 7, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.

This recent celebration of our nation's independence was also an important time of transition for both me personally and the Smith family in general. We reached a point where, willingly, I gave way to the next generation and allowed them to assume the mantle and mighty responsibility that comes with it.

I passed the torch. Literally.

It's been coming for some time, but this year it was with no fanfare, absolutely no ceremony and complete relief on the part of all involved that I officially quit lighting fireworks.

And by "passing the torch," I mean one of those long-nosed plastic lighters we've used to ignite the small army's worth of explosives (and by extension, dollars) every Fourth of July. Seems in our family, as with many others, we spend the holiday showing the sky who is boss around here (a note: while we do blow up a lot of stuff, the sky seems, at least in the long run, duly unimpressed).

For years, the actual igniting of all that stuff and money was left to me, at least on the theory (if not the reality) that it was safest. The fact that handing an ape a box of matches and saying "go at it" was just as practical was lost on no one. But the absence of an actual ape and the ages of our children both made me the most likely candidate and proved the adage that just because an idea is the best available still doesn't necessarily make it a good one.

This year the mantle and mighty responsibility, yada yada whatever fell to one of my sons-in-law who, it must be said, has actual skills in this area. So it is with some relief on everyone's part that a person actually qualified to handle things that require planning, execution and the ability to work with tools (although he's used to working with things a tad more complex than a long-nosed lighter) is now in charge.

Or at least as in charge as he's allowed to be. Because while someone has to do the actual lighting of fireworks in my family, that person gets, shall we say, lots of direction as to what to light next, how far away said lighting needs to be, what to watch out for, how loud things can be and not scare the children, and that "we want some pretty things now."

Also, constant, well-intentioned advice not to blow off any fingers. Because it's the repeated advice that makes us safe.

In fairness, I've tried passing the mantle before, only to take it right back fairly quickly when it was determined the mantle-passing might have been a little premature. It's a fact that became clear when the overly enthusiastic receivers of the mantle nailed a boat someone has carelessly left in his own driveway (you can't just leave those things sitting around) with a mortar.

But this time, both attitude and enthusiasm were a match, in addition to the fact that the receiver of the mantle is a grown adult who understands explosives go really, really fast and you need to make sure they move upward and away from people.

And so I have successfully assumed Fireworks Lighter Emeritus status, content to observe from the relative safety of the lawn after performing the age-old incantation that accompanies the passing of the mantle: "There's a couple of bags of stuff we bought over there. Looked good at the fireworks stand so, hope you can find the fuses. They tend to hide those things."

OK, it seemed more dramatic in person. You had to be there.

Speaking of drama, yes, that fact that I have moved on from anything requiring speed and any degree of dexterity - likely years after my limited skill set should have dictated the move - might seem a bit mundane. Though exceptionally practical.

However, it is, to a small but loud degree one more example of how we as parents are increasingly starting to exit the stage. Where once we were the center of the activity, execution-wise, now we are content to play more minor roles.

And that's a good thing. You raise your children to have their own lives, their own traditions. And that can't happen if those lives and traditions are actually yours.

I still have to carve the Thanksgiving turkey, though. Because that's a job for the boss of the house. And she told me she wants me to.

Print Headline: The torch is passed


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