The Fourth Of July was not my mother’s holiday. She grew up in another country. As with Thanksgiving, she would state, “This is not my holiday. I did not grow up with it, but I will do it for you children..” So, we would have hot dogs and hamburgers and most importantly apple pie. She would laugh and say the garden knew it was a holiday as it was red, white and blue -hydrangea, roses and daisies. We’d sit out in the backyard to catch glimpses of the fireworks from the park. It meant ice cream. Sometimes, sparklers. Illegal, illicit glittery sparklers with the other neighborhood children.
As time marched towards adulthood, it became a day to sleep late and not work, followed by the requisite barbecue and pie.
The summer I graduated college I was looking for work. I went to my local neighborhood dive. Most of the people there were people I’d been at school with. I was an introverted nerd who had blossomed in my time away. I was shocked when a football team jock invited me to spend the 4th with him in Montauk, at another classmate’s house party. I told him I had to ask my father. Said father was furious, not that I wanted to away for the holiday with a boy; but rather that I had said I had to ask. So off we went. I remember getting there early in the day. Just about everyone was from high school and the cool kids no less. Despite my blossoming, I felt as if I was in a foreign land. We all grew up drinking. It was the era. But these people had started way too early in the day for me. When it was dark, H the host, suggested that T and I join him and his girlfriend and sleep on his boat. I don’t do boats. My grandfather was a ship’s pilot and drowned. Yes, this was over 50 years later but I had and have an innate antipathy towards boats. Evening falls and finds us in bed. Hey, red blooded American twenty somethings! So, lying on my back and thinking of England and see fireworks. Yes, they’re exploding in the harbor or wherever the hell we are. I say, “I am seeing fireworks.” Poor thing took it seriously. The romance was short-lived. It was the Son of Sam Summer and that coupled with his fear of spiders cooled things down quickly. The other takeaway was that my high school and forever boyfriend was in California at the time. Some years later, he returned to NY. The first phrase out of his mouth was, “What’s this I hear about you sleeping with H on his boat?” Uh, wrong guy and it’s a truly tiny country.
“Paris was a place you hide away if you felt you didn’t fit in.” from “Every Picture Tells a Story”
I found myself in Paris for July 4 for pret a porter and my job. I knew I’d get a comp day. Imagine being paid to do this? I love Paris and it was not my first trip. I went all over the city. My employers had a “rule” that I couldn’t come home without a roll of film. It was unusually cold and I wasn’t prepared. On the Metro, a gentleman thought I was homeless. One thing, whenever I travel, I note what makes me an American. If I hear the Star Spangled Banner, it gets to me. “land of the free; and the home of the brave”
Next decade – the Millennium
I find myself on July 3 starting at a monolith which I call the Bank, in all its omnipotence. The HR orientation woman tells me, “There is no early leave at the Bank.” I look at her quizzically as why are they discussing retirement when this is my first day? She explains that early leave means for the 4th. This is good because I am already planning my own early leave of staying just a year. So much for plans. I end up staying for 15 years through a new marriage, the death of both my parents and the onset of my lack of mobility. Yesterday was the 18th anniversary. So much of me was tied up there and still is.
Next decade (40’s)
I am at the Bank. I have been seeing the man I will marry for about 9 months. He has a room in a house full of guys. The owner is a friend of my brother’s. He has AIDS, which he denies; smokes copious amounts of weed and drinks heavily. He is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. We barbecue in the backyard. And of course, we drink. Everyone laughs as I discover I have drank a whole bottle of rum. They laugh again as I try to get up the stairs into the house in my dizzy flipflops. Tom and I sit on the lawn and watch neighborhood fireworks. I am happy
We move. We laugh as our house is close to the police precinct and the display of fireworks emanating from that direction is spectacular. We sit on the step and move back and forth between the front and the back. The noise continues till morning. My reflection is that we are lucky to live in a country where the explosions and the lights are not bombs
Present Day –
It’s hot and steamy. Normally, this my weather. Instead, the heat has made me captive in home and body. The fans spin and the A/C is on. I look out windows and at security cameras instead of being outside, half dozing, reading in the afternoon heat. No barbecue, no apple pie, no fireworks of any kind. I have been told that currently I am grieving the Bank or more precisely my work there and my life. A couple of things -it may be illogical but I see not being at the Bank, the beginning of my current decline. I became complacent. I didn’t learn enough new things. Most importantly, I didn’t make a plan. Even if I had, there was no plan to lose mobility. Today, for now, I am dependent rather than independent. However, I still have my mind! So, land of the free, home of the brave.