It’s the kind of thing where you look at the calendar and notice that, all of the sudden it’s been months since you’ve come here and breathed words onto the screen. Months since you’ve pushed fresh words out of you, since you noticed that their exhale feels like relief, like a sigh.
It’s been busy, sure. Days and nights filled with life-changing projects, sure, but all the while you have to remember that this is also your life, here. Today.
You want to remember the Fourth of July and it’s already the ninth but better late than never, right? You want to write about how your family sat cross-legged on your back patio to eat a pasta dinner, which isn’t terribly patriotic but felt right somehow. It’s been two summers and you still haven’t picked out patio furniture so you sat on a huge fleece blanket, soft and warm against your skin. After strawberry cupcakes the air got thicker, heavier, and you all agreed it was time to head out to the local lake. No cramming yourselves into a crowd for fireworks. You wanted something calmer, a way to usher in the season that was peaceful and totally you.
The lake was flat and warm and your daughter splashed in like she always does. Open arms. Shrieks of happiness. The sand sticking to the back of her legs.
You weren’t dressed for swimming but eventually everyone filed into the water, even your brother-in-law’s girlfriend, who doesn’t know how to swim. So you, too, stripped down to your sports bra and waded in. The water felt like a hug.
Out on the dock, your husband jumped into the water, your daughter watching admiringly from shore.
Good job, Daddy. I’m proud of you.
After, you stood on the shore while the air cooled around you, watching the lake houses light sparklers, leaving splashes of color and trails of smoke.
No one planned to find fireworks, but as you drove home they exploded in the sky around you. Your husband took a detour, out past the grocery store, its parking lot trees dressed for winter in white Christmas lights. Down the big hill that’s so tiring to run on in the fall. Up again.
The park was empty but you were at the top of the hill and you could see six fireworks shows from here. Your husband spun the car in lazy circles, everyone watching, until you decided to park and get out of the car.
And then you stood there, the sky filled with color and noise, to watch the shows. Your daughter, clothes stripped off after her swim, sat naked on the hood of the car.
Don’t look at these ones, Papa, she told her grandfather. These fireworks are mine. Sometimes you feel like that, too. Like you want the moments all shiny, a fresh present just for you.
Green and blue and orange and purple and white and pop, pop, bang!
Happy Birthday, America, your daughter sung.
You swatted at mosquitos, felt the sting of their bites. They didn’t show up, pink and itching, until two days later. That night you stood, happy, exactly where you were meant to be.