7.06.2009

Fireworks, Firemen, and Freedom

I associate fireworks with death.

I blame my oldest brother for this. When I was a little girl, he convinced me that for every firework that went off, at least two firemen died. "Think about it," he told me. "With an explosion that big, people are going to die."

I remember laying on my back that night on a blanket, surrounded by my family in the cool grass. I was in awe. The sky was blooming with fireworks and my heart pounded with the strange ambivalence of pleasure and sadness.

I grew older.

I began to realize that firemen weren't dying unseen in the dark beyond my view, but I also became increasingly aware that all the pleasures I experienced on the day preceding the show-- the swimming, the barbecues, the family football games on the grass-- came with a price tag. That all my daily pleasures carried a weight. That there were indeed people beyond my view that had died or were dying to protect those pleasures.

And so it is that I get all weepy at firework shows.

This year Rick and I stayed home and had no visitors for the fourth for the first time in our marriage. We talked about what kinds of traditions we should incorporate into our family. I said that I wanted to do something that celebrated and helped us enjoy where we live locally. He suggested skinny dipping in the Bellagio fountain. We settled on more traditional pleasures.

We slept, enjoyed watermelon, fresh bread and jam, swimming, barbecue with friends, a bike ride, and shopping. At one point during the day we were all hanging out together and I used the wooden spoon as a mike and belted out the Star Spangled Banner. Rick said I was awesome and should try out for America's got talent. Bring it on. We watched a movie and ate popcorn while we waited for the sky to darken. Vaughn loved the sparklers we got and wanted more, more, more. In all, I think it was a very lovely day and way to celebrate our country, and freedoms.

I thougt last night about what I wanted most to remember about the day, and two small moments stuck out the most to me.

The first was while I was nursing and singing Mason to sleep. It was still light outside, and the light came through the curtains and made Mason's hair look like it was glowing. I thought about how blond he has gotten. His hair was so dark in the beginning. I was sure it would stay that way. I thought about the fireworks then-- about what my brother told me. I held my little boy in my arms and felt for that small moment, so grateful for the freedoms that I have. For the safety that I have. For the people who have given everything to give me that.

And the second, if you haven't already guessed, was later that night while Rick, Vaughn and I all stood in our backyard and watched the sky light up with lights. Vaughn kept saying "just one more more, pease. Just one more more." He didn't want to go to bed. He looked so small standing there on our patio table, and so grown up at the same time.

I felt happy to be there on our patio with my husband and little boy. It felt great to be an American. And I may have (may have) even shed a patriotic tear or two.