18 August 2005

Boys Only

Victor and I were talking to a colleague this evening, and she mentioned that her family sells fireworks in Indiana and Ohio. It turns out that her brother, cousins, uncle, and father are all in the business.

She is an environmental scientist. Her sister is getting a PhD in biology at Brown. “Funny how the girls didn’t go into it,” Victor said.

She shrugged. “If I’d shown any interest when I was 11, I’m sure they would have welcomed me.”

Her family’s fireworks business extends beyond sales. Her brother and cousins design and execute public fireworks displays for municipalities and institutions. Does that sound fun, or what? She just shrugs.

Maybe pyromania is a guy thing. I think of how Victor gets so excited by fireworks—the prospect of them and then the detonation of them. To me they’re pretty enough, but typically my aversion to crowds is enough to keep me home or at the movies on July 4th. I’m not crazy about the noise, either. And lately I’ve started to think about how odd it is that we celebrate important occasions with the sights and sounds of conventional warfare.

Her father, retired, now travels to China with her uncle yearly to inspect plant practices and foster relationships with fireworks manufacturers. (Isn’t it funny that we’re buying fireworks from the folks who invented them more than a thousand years ago?) He asked her if she wanted him to bring anything back for her.

“I want to go to China,” she said.

“It’s good to want things,” he said.

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