Happy Independence Day!
Barbequing for the Fourth? Going somewhere, or staying home?
Happy 200th post for this blog! (Well, that was yesterday, but we're celebrating the one-day anniversary of the blessed event.) I was Soo looking forward to doing some big retrospective thing, but then the vampire-authors freaked me out a little. (Thanks, Angie, for calming me down.) Maybe I'll go for the one year date thingamabob.
Anyway, Happy Holiday Weekend. (Four days? Wow.)
I used to get superbly annoyed at people who ruined every holiday by bringing up some ghastly event the damn thing reminded them of. (Well, Grandma died the day the Titanic sank; some things can hardly be helped.) But I can't seem to kick the habit myself.
My aunt died when she was 46. I'll be 40 next year. Soon I will eclispe her, which is just bizarre. My great-grandmother (Nana) was widowed suddenly when my grandmother was nine years old. For the rest of Nana's life, and then Grandma's, there was a picture on the dresser of a dashing young coronet player in a sepia suit. How odd for Grandma, to be decades older than her father.
My aunt got married the day before her fortieth birthday--she didn't want anyone to celebrate it, and she didn't want anyone commenting on how old she was at her wedding, "Forty years! What took so long?"
Today would have been her twentieth wedding anniversary. Tomorrow she would have been sixty.
When she was a little girl, her birthday and Independence Day got all muddled up in her head. She was pretty sure that the parade was for the Fourth, but that the fireworks were for her. Grandma cooked everyone their favorite dinner on their birthday. My aunt's was turkey and all the fixings: Thanksgiving in July.
I can't see fireworks without tasting turkey gravy at the edge of my tongue. (I also taste peas when I hear Walter Cronkite's voice--too many dinners watching the evening news, I guess.) I'm all muddled up too. I don't know how to celebrate the Fourth without mourning my aunt's death.
Today we're heading back to the old neighborhood in Berkeley to take part in a block party that's been going on for twenty years. This evening come home and go downtown in my little town, try to get as far down First Street as we can, so that the explosions are right overhead.
And when the first ones go off in the grey twilight sky, exploding over the strait, I'll be the one lying on the curb on the blue blanket, surrounded by my family. I'll lean down over my littlest, one arm pointing to the rose in the clouds, curl my head into her shoulder, pretending to whisper, so I can swallow that burst of fatty, salty, rich memory teasing my tongue. I'll hide my tears in her hair for a moment, just a few tears and sniffle, before I decide it's silly to cry in public and shake it off. This is their holiday, my kids', and I don't want to smother it with someone else's faded picture of a coronet player.
But I really miss you, Joyce. I hate that you've never met my kids, never given them some badly carved but highly polished piece of jade with a special message written by you on a piece of velvet. I hate that the magic you brought to my life has not been brought into theirs. I hate knowing that if you had lived, I would have had children, you would have had none, and that you would have been jealous of mine, and then nasty to me. You were capable of it--I knew you very well. I know I wouldn't have shared Independence Days with you, if you were alive; it would have been a burden to schlepp my children to the relatives' to eat warm turkey. And now that you're dead, the fantasies of your warmth, and the loss of your coarse hugs, fill up this holiday until it's something else entirely.
We eat hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausage, none of which I ate as a kid. We reminisce with neighbors we once had. And in the evening, the booming of the explosions thump my chest until I cry again at the finale. It's a false memory of what kids do on holidays which we are trying to recreate, and it's a memory of someone else's impression of what fireworks meant to her.