As a young girl the 4th of July was not my favorite holiday. My mom had heard and seen too many stories of people losing their hands while lighting fireworks, thus we never celebrated it. Sometimes we’d see firework displays at parks but most times, we didn’t. It was America’s birthday. That’s what I understood about the 4th of July.
This holiday symbolizes more than America’s birthday. While floating in the pool I asked my sons why we celebrate this particular day and their answers surprised me. The youngest automatically said, It’s America’s birthday. Before he could complete his sentence the middle son, who just studied American history in 5th grade, completed his thought and replied, in 1776 we won independence from England, signed a treaty and are allowed the liberty to choose many freedoms; like religion. The younger child then added things like: voting, guns (boys!) and the eldest voiced marriage (traditional, interracial and LGBT) and democracy. The eldest knows what the acronym LGBT stands for and went on to explain to the members of our family, floating in their grandparents’ pool, what it meant. Not quite the answers we had expected from kids.
The patriotic holidays resonate with my kids; knowing what it means to serve their country. They’ve borne the sacrifice of a father who has been deployed, often, for America’s ideals. But we were getting too maudlin on this bright and sunny day and the youngest quickly asked, when can we eat and do fireworks?
The tradition for the hub’s family is to eat: hotdogs, hamburgers and apple pie; American staples in celebrating the red, white and blue. Flags waved in the breeze as the smells of BBQ permeated the patio and pool. As I snapped the shots I realized this is probably my favorite holiday; 2nd to Christmas. There are no gifts to give, no major food items to prepare (it is potluck) and we float in a pool, drinks in hand, and spend time as a family. And what I love the most? Sparklers! I look forward to taking a picture of my boys holding these sticks of shooting sparks. These are the things I missed out on as a kid.
We literally were burning the candles late into the night and I was rudely awakened by the lightening sky coming through my bedroom window. I am an early riser, my sleep patterns set to the circadian rhythms of the sun. I’m supposed to be enjoying the holiday weekend and sleeping late. Why!?
At 9Am my family of five sat upon an overcast, but warm, beach. Endless white sand reached the horizons on either side of us. My boys bounced upon the waves, splashing and hollering; riding them in. Most summers, as a kid, I spent bike riding to and from our cold, coastal beach amongst fields of green. These were the days before we had to worry about predators and my girlfriends and I would hop on our ten-speed bikes and bike the 4 miles through sand dunes to the sounds of waves crashing on the shore. We’d walk the shoreline and rest, the water enough to freeze our toes before the return trek back. I longed to be outdoors near the open water with no distractions. And so here we sat, my mind blissfully blank.
Our friends soon arrived, along with the crowds, with the very same idea. The expanse of white sand became littered with colored umbrellas and EZ-ups, like our own, people dotted along the ocean and shoreline. It was a stark contrast from a week ago when we sat upon this very same beach, empty and cold with only the activity of junior lifeguard programs. Balancing on my boogie board, near the shorebreak, my gaze always searched the shore to find our group amongst the crowd. The current constantly had us drift, right and away, towards the pier and I was constantly redirecting our group in the water to head back. As I paddled and waited for the perfect wave, the metaphor of the beach again struck me; my mind no longer blank.
It is nice to have somewhere to rest your gaze; a group to look for and belong. I constantly fought the drift, sometimes taking in water, to swim back towards the shoreline. I was getting tired of waiting and my body began to shake; needing to eat lunch. Another family was arriving and as I signaled to the hubs that I would head to shore he pointed to the horizon. There was the wave I was waiting for. And so he launched me, pushing me in front of the wave and feeling the pull of the current as I rose to the top of the rough, rising water ready for the crash down. I rode it all the way to the shore and soon found myself scarfing a burrito amongst my girlfriends and children, getting nourishment before I headed back out.
My relationships give me sustenance. Sometimes they are rocky and I impatiently wait, wondering what perfect relationship will carry me through my life. Is it my hubs? My kids? My girlfriends? God? As an only child I am not accustomed to being in relationships; nor nurturing them. From society it was ingrained that money talks; not loyalty or association. The cheapest price doesn’t bring down the cost; the kinship with the salesman/company does. The same is true for friendship. It is the quality, not quantity, that brings loyalty but sometimes, it takes time, to see this; good or bad.
I watched this with our children, who continue to grow taller. They enjoyed one another’s company but kept their distinct identities. And that’s okay. One does not have to have a bff to be a friend; they merely need to accept one another’s differences and get along. I returned to the water and would smile at the activity on the shoreline. The girls were still talking under the EZ-up, the kids waded the shoreline, body surfed nearby, played Smashball and/or Uno. When I drifted, my gaze focused on our group and I would make my way to where the hubs treaded water in front of them. And after riding several sets of 4-5 ft. swells, our party of 23 ate and walked the boardwalk and pier. Another day of burning the candle late. But it was worth it.