The car rumbled over the cobblestones uneasily as we passed the warehouses and abandoned junk yards making our way towards the water. The sun beamed down the oddly deserted streets blinding us as we drove slowly in the direction of the old pier. We knew we were close. We had assumed that we would simply follow the crowds of other New Yorkers flocking to Red Hook to watch the fireworks, but alas, there were hardly any to be found. The parking spots were open, the streets were quiet, and the air was still. As we neared the old shipping yard I began to wonder if perhaps we had made a mistake in venturing to a brand new spot on the fourth of July; a spot that, before today, I had never heard of. But then we turned the last corner and I gasped. I knew in that moment that we had found something special.
Sunlight poured over the old wooden pier, soaking the grassy knoll behind it and bouncing off of the old industrial buildings. A few wooden picnic tables had been brought out in front of the adjacent warehouse, where a bustling key lime pie stand was in business. Two dogs guarded the front of the stand, and a few others lounged on the grass with their families. A few dozen people laid on blankets, picnicking and sunbathing. A cool breeze blew in from the calm river, and lady liberty herself looked down upon us from her throne in the distance.
We laid out a blanket by the water and began to eat. Biet stole all of the blueberries for herself, and thought it was just the funniest thing to adorn her little blueberry container with handfuls of grass. Lucien rested his head upon his sling on the grass at stared up at the orange-streaked sky as the sun descended. Gaby and I took turns chasing Biet to the pier and back and watching sailboats float by. As we waited for the sun to set and the firework to begin, Biet and I explored the neighborhood a bit. We climbed old brick walls and wandered down dirty alleys. Biet collected stones along the way, showing me each one excitedly before putting it in her pocket. We stopped in for a mini key lime pie on our way back to Papa and Lucien, and the owner gave Biet the cutest little key lime to add to her stone collection.
As the buildings' shadows grew long and darkness blanketed us, little eyes began to grow tired and little legs began to grow weary. We made our way to the end of the pier, Lucien nursing in his sling and Biet in the arms of her Papa. The pier slowly filled will people, and the first booms of the fireworks echoed across the water. By the time we realized that our perfect little spot had a not-so-perfect view, we looked down and realized that our babies, having had a full and adventuresome day, were ready to sleep. Biet wouldn't even lift her head from her Papa's shoulder to see the tiny fireworks in the distance. So humming to our children over the excitement of the crowd, we ventured off the pier, through the grass, away from the water, and back to the car. We hardly saw any of the show, but it was kind of a perfect ending to a beautiful day.
This little space of the city that we had discovered, so new to us at the same time so old, felt like it had been waiting for us all along. Our afternoon there had been so magical, and so free. And what better day to experience an overwhelming sense of gratitude and freedom, than on Independence Day. After all, isn't that what this day is all about?
And at the first stop sign we came upon not two blocks away, a rambunctious group of teenagers suddenly bombarded the street and set off the brightest, biggest, scariest firework show right in front of us. Alternately terrified and thrilled, we drove through and away from the booms and whistles and explosions in the sky, sparks flying all around. Leave it to kids of Brooklyn to put on the best Fourth of July show in the city.