Our first home was in Peachtree Park, the neighborhood behind Lenox Square, hemmed in by Piedmont Road, Peachtree Road and Ga. 400. My wife Lori and I moved into our house on Dale Drive in 2001 literally a few months before our son Thornton came into being. His birthday is Nov. 18; therefore the first Thanksgiving in that house was a bit of a blur as anyone with a newborn can attest.
The next year we were at home recuperating from family and food — mostly family — Thanksgiving evening when we remembered Lenox did the big tree lighting. Peachtree Park is connected to the mall by a pedestrian bridge. It was a mild night, so we walked over to the mall to participate in some early holiday reverie.
The pedestrian bridge crosses 400 and connects to the back parking lot behind the food court. We walked around the JW Marriott Hotel, up Lenox Road and found a spot. In the early evening darkness, a countdown to the tree lighting began, followed directly by the boom and sizzle of fireworks. Game for anything, we pointed and cheered trying to get the child excited. Clearly, though, he was concerned.
He went from being mildly perplexed to wailing uncontrollably in about three seconds. We made the executive decision to head home, walking down the back loop behind Lenox. We found rather than getting quieter, the explosions were getting louder and different.
They were now preceded by an inner-ear concussion that made your head feel like it was being pumped with short but intense spurts of air. Looking around, we noticed a chain-link fence had been erected to keep people out of the parking deck off of Lenox Road.
On the fence were danger signs and little pictures of explosions and hard hats. We had inexplicably walked a child horrified of fireworks directly into the launching area for the fireworks. The concussions began to happen with no separation, whump-whump-whump-boom-boom-boom.
It was the grand finale, when the pyromaniacs that be sent hundreds of explosions into the sky to draw the longest, most profound “ah” ever conceived, and Thornton, Lori and I were in the middle of it.
I dropped to one knee and held the child close to me, which probably didn’t help the situation but made me feel better, until the crowd roared its collective approval and our night of parenting triumph was over.
We never made it back to another tree lighting over the next seven years in that house, and thankfully the boy doesn’t remember it, though he was deathly afraid of fireworks for years. Can’t imagine why.
Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.