Spivey, now 33 and living in Somerville, left her job as an elementary-school teacher, left her husband, and left Maryland. She asks, "How many times do you get to play fireworks girl?" In the process, she found she had an artistic eye for a fireworks show, a surprise given that she'd hated fireworks when she was young ("loud, annoying, too many people").
Is there a typical person who's pulled to pyrotechnics? "No," says Spivey. She lists off some of the people she knows who do either full- or part-time crewing -- the woman who hired her had doctorates from MIT, there's a chiropractor, a secretary, a flight attendant, housewives, Goths, punks, oldies, kids. In a recent meeting, "We had a woman with hot-pink hair sitting next to a woman who was knitting sitting next to a teenage boy," with nothing bringing them together but exploding peonies, chrysanthemums, and diadems.
"It's the craziest, most insane, silliest, funnest [bunch of] people you'll ever meet," she says. At the end of a show, "You'll smell like a goat put away wet three weeks ago, and not one of us cares. We'll just sit there hugging each other." And when you can hear the crowd cheering at the end of the show through your protective ear wear, "there's nothing like it in the world."
Nina MacLaughlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.