The Fourth

I’m not a person with a ton of Independence Day traditions.  I’ve always done something to mark the holiday, but I have almost always found that my plans for the Fourth of July have come together at the last minute (if they come together at all).

Even so, I have so often been fortunate to celebrate the day with family and friends, whether hanging out at my Dad’s, being at the beach, going to watch fireworks, pulling over on a bridge at the GA/SC line to watch the fireworks over the river, chasing a terrified dog down a dark street lined by trees full of fireflies, or, most recently, flying home with my boys to be with our family in the States.  I have varied and bountiful memories of July 4th, and all of them, woven together, make up my very loose idea of Independence Day traditions.

013Being away from home, we wanted to do something to mark the holiday, especially because, since the boys are beginning to be old enough to understand such things, we want them to have some idea about the Fourth of July.  Fireworks aren’t a possibility, and neither did we find any convenient displays of American flags or red, white and blue anything.  We settled for celebrating with a version of a cookout (made indoors): hot dogs (served in buns, American style, with ketchup and French’s mustard), Cheetos, potato chips, watermelon, lemonade and ice cream.  (The boys are not interested in eating hot dogs in buns.  I fear we will have a lot of work to do in the realm of repatriation when we move home.)  It was really nice, and it did feel appropriately festive.

I don’t feel lonely or forlorn at being away from home on this day.  But I do feel very aware of my American-ness.  Like any imperfect family (and all of them are), for all of our collective national dysfunction, I am proud to be a part of it.  The ideals on which my country was founded are wise, and the spirit of my fellow Americans is strong.  We are neighbors, we are family, we are a community, and I am proud to be a part of that.  And although I’m not exactly sad, I do miss it.  Today, on a day that celebrates my nation and my people, I am not among them, but my heart is home.

Missing home, but not too much

Cookouts, fireworks, swimming pools, family and friends — all over the US, and most importantly, in a couple of specific places in Maryland and Virginia, that is what’s happening today. I’m really missing home — I’m really wishing I was there. July 4th is nothing other than the first Monday of July here, of course, and it’s a weird, lonely feeling — like everyone forgetting your birthday. Intellectually, of course, I completely understand, but emotionally, I really feel like I’m missing out. I also know that these are formative years in terms of my kids understanding and appreciating holidays, and I worry that they’re missing out, too.

We had a nice day today, but it was one of those days where we start trying to leave the house around 8:30 in the morning and actually get out of the house at 4:30 in the afternoon. Once out, though, we revisited St. Stephen’s (Benjamin did another, “I wish for all my family to be happy” prayers, and really, how can that not make my day?) and went to the Vienna Opera House.

But the best part is happening right now. I’m listening to Benjamin ask questions and respond to things from his bedtime story, and he is absolutely astonishing to me. He’s already told us, “The sun is not a planet” and “I love dark rain clouds — they’re full of lots and lots of rain that goes drop, drop, drop”. I can’t think of a better thing to help mitigate my feeling of being far from home than being near my children.

Happy birthday, America: I miss you.