Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Good to be home, Part II
The last couple of weeks have been one thing after another--moving, working, running, partying, visiting, cleaning, picture-hunting, and soap-selling. The craziness ended with our first gathering in this house to celebrate America's Independence Day, or, more precisely termed, the 4th of July.
I am not one for much patriotism. In Vancouver, it took me months to not blush every time I confessed my origin. Now, in the midst of a Proud-to-be-American kind of town, I still cringe a little when someone is too flag-happy. We as a country are so consistently arrogant, stomping all over the globe and barging into countries we should likely leave alone, using up resources we don't have, and acting still like we are God's gift to the planet. I take the stance of apology over pride just to get through the day.
I have, in fact, spent most of my life embarrassed--of my country and our choices, of my flag-flying town, and of my church upbringing that praised such patriotism. Truth be told, I am not only not patriotic, I have grown to loath 4th of July as a holiday with all its loud, kitschy, starry celebrations. I don't like fireworks. I don't like hamburgers. I don't like staying up passed 9:30pm. My stomach sinks at the sight of potato salad. My head aches with the lingering evening heat. And every year my sleep is disturbed for a week because the neighbors (no matter where we live!) hold late night contraband firecracker parties. So I end up over-stuffed, under-slept, and overstimulated, all in the name of a country I have never been sure about.
So maybe you understand then how odd it truly is that Kevin and I would decide to host a 4th of July party at our new house (of two weeks), as if we were ready, as if I cared a lemon's lip about the day at all.
But something magical happened this weekend. Call it a change of heart, call it a homeland conversion, but this last Monday was beautiful.
Maybe it was because on Sunday Kevin and I took Kevin's aunt to that Episcopal church we've been frequenting. And it was all wrong. The sermon was too long, the readings stunted, and the singing (which I try to avoid by attending the earliest service) included the "Star Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful." These are two of the most important American songs usually only remembered due to one's proximity to baseball games or viewings of Pollyanna. I can never sing them seriously. I have been coming back to church for the usually short, sweet, to-the-point quietude, and for the holy air around whatever we do in there. But this service was odd, long, and out-of-character.
But then, that magical something happened. Singing such songs felt, for some completely unexplainable reason, appropriate. There was no other patriotic excitement, save for the prayers of the people which included a specific prayer for our country's direction and wisdom, or lack thereof. Maybe it did not chafe me because this was Wendy orchestrating it all. Wendy, the priest, is from Berkeley. She keeps the services friendly and the parishioners on their toes.
My point is, by singing those songs I felt I was claiming this country, which is already my county, as, finally, my country.
Then Monday came and we had our party. The family came. They brought the food. I ended up contributing a last-minute veggie tray and a watermelon. That's it. No dip, no pie. Just vegetables and sliced watermelon. I didn't even make the melon into a salad with mint, or red onion, or both. I combined no pistachios and rose water. I cut that ten pound beauty into wedges and served. I was relaxed, we had oodles of food, and we sat around munching and talking until it was time for firecrackers.
Oops, I don't like firecrackers. But there's the magic again. It was Cedar's first year to notice such things, so I participated. The grandparents and the great-grandparents sat in lawn chairs. My father and Kevin's uncle hung back telling each other boy-stories (the childhood version of war stories, in case you didn't know)--of playing with fire, making pipe bombs, and other unmentionable shenanigans. My brother and Kevin lit off the firecrackers, got burnt only a couple times, and looked entirely too serious and cute in the process.
Cedar hung out with Grandpa, and worked up the courage to hold a sparkler or two. My sister-in-law and I leaned on my dad's old, blue F150, and watched. I watched the Fire Fountains, the Picalo Peeps, Flowers, and Rain Showers, I held a few sparklers, I danced with a few sparklers, and at some point I slipped and said, grinning ridiculously, "This is fun!" I had been sucked in. This fire thing, this odd celebration thing, this Independence Day thing was actually fun, enjoyable, thrilling, homey. It was delightful. We hadn't even gotten to the real fireworks yet.
I had assumed I would stay home with Cedar. The show didn't even start until 9:30pm, an hour and a half after Cedar's usual bedtime, and well into mine. But Cedar seemed to be awake enough, and the firecracker show the boys put on was so exciting and undeniably beautiful, that I decided to give it a try.
Cedar and I ended up watching about two minutes of the show, as he got freaked out from a car alarm a few minutes before it started, and it must have sent him over the edge into overtired toddler land, because he had a deathgrip around my neck and wouldn't stop asking to take a nap. Poor kid. We were camped out on my in-laws' lawn (they are a block from the high school where the show is), so I took him inside, opened the blinds so I could still see, and proceeded to watch the fireworks display through the window. No deafening booms. No mosquitoes. No excessive heat. I lay on the couch with Cedar sleeping on my chest and watched while the burst of fire lit up the sky. I watched while the mulberry tree formed a silhouette against their light. I watched the star-bursts, the trailing shimmers, the fountains, the orbs that all exploded above us. I don't remember fireworks ever being so beautiful.
When it was all done, and I came outside to take Cedar home, I spotted waxing Mead Moon, a ruddy, large crescent peeking through the leafed branches of the mulberry. I haven't noticed the moon in weeks, so it was good to see. There is growth about us, a waxing of creativity, love of fire, love of country, love of land.