Somewhere in Time: Fourth of July, 2009 - Fireworks and Milk Shakes

On July 4th, 2009, Tim and I wanted to watch the fireworks.  Every year, the City of Philadelphia has a large free concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  There was a time that there would be simultaneous fireworks from the Delaware River and from behind the Museum of Art.  I had worked details on July 4th celebrations for a number of years when I was still in Patrol.  Sometimes I stood at a desolate street corner for traffic that never came, or stationed at the concert stage area.  This was my first year off in my time as a cop.  I hadn’t been on the detail since being promoted to Detective in December 2005, and for the first time I didn’t check how the events were scheduled.


Tim didn’t care about the concert, even though I thought he would have enjoyed Sharon Crow performing live.  About 9:00 PM we walked from our home down Allegheny Avenue to where the street dead-end’s at the Delaware River.  While we were on our way, a man approached us.  I could smell the alcohol on his breath.


“Happy Fourth of July,” the drunk stammered.  “Can you give me a dollar so I can catch my bus?”


I pulled Tim to the other side away from the drunk.  I bladed myself in case the drunk didn’t like my answer.  “Sorry brother.”


I started walking away with Tim beside me.  The drunk ran towards us.  I could see Tim looking out of the corner of his eye. 


“Hey what about the kid,” the drunk asked.


“No,” I said.  “He doesn’t have any money either.”  I again faced him.  I stood between the drunk and Tim.


“Are you sure?”


I stepped towards him.  “What part of no don’t we understand?  I don’t have money, my kid doesn’t have money.  Now get away from us.”  I could feel my shoulders hunch and my gut tighten.


The man backed off, cursing under his breath.  I watched him walk away and didn’t start walking again until he was a good distance from me and my son.


“Why do people have to get messed up like that, Daddy?”


“I don’t know, Monk.  I don’t know.”


Shortly we arrived at our destination.  From the dead-end, behind some traffic poles is a small pier and park.  Here, we had a clear view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and further in the distance the Walt Whitman Bridge.  We watched the lights of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge dance in red, white, and blue lights as the PATCO trains crossed over.  Other people had already gathered, some checked their watches – others checked their fishing lines; but everyone was anticipating the fireworks to exploding with colors and thunderous booms.


I forgot the fireworks over the river had been the week before.  I screwed up.  For an hour, Tim and stood waiting for the fireworks; I called my wife who was up in the Poconos with Tim’s sisters.


“No you dummy.  The fireworks were last week for the river.  That’s the way it has been for years.”


“Are you sure?”  I asked.


“Yes!  Because every year I wanted to take him downtown with my sister, you didn’t want me to go because you’re always afraid something would happen to us.”


I said good bye and hung up.


“Come on Monk.”  I called to Tim.  “I screwed up.  I’m sorry.”


“Its okay, Daddy, mistakes happen.”  I saw the disappointment in his eyes.  “I don’t understand why they don’t do it like they used to.”  Tim said.


We started to walk home.  I was embarrassed and felt like an idiot.


“Hey Daddy,” Tim said.  “Can we stop at the Wawa for a milk-shake?”


“Sure Monk.  What flavor?”


“I was thinking cookies and cream, or chocolate.”


We stopped got our mix-your-own milk shakes.  We started back home, drinking milk shakes and talking about Tim’s up-coming birthday.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted a laptop computer or a Play Station 3.  Despite missing the fireworks, what was most important to Tim was that we spent our time together. 

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Comment by Susan - Donny's Mom on July 4, 2011 at 9:29am

Yes I am with Tami, it is these memories that sustain us.  Today the 4th was Donny's favorite holiday.  He absolutely lOVED to buy and light off fireworks.  The older he got the bigger they got.

We will be thinking of him tonight.  Sad...wish he was still here with his family.

Very heart warming story Martin.


Comment by Tami on July 4, 2011 at 12:44am
I love your story, what a good memory to cherish.

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