It was a surprising 4th of July.
I haven’t done anything for this holiday in like three years. It’s never been planned that way exactly, I am not one who tends to intentionally avoid any kind of holiday plans, but I also do not especially care about this holiday. The truth is that I’m not sure how much I care about any holidays anymore, but that is a topic for another time.
The point is that for the last several years I have been sitting inside watching movies while all the shenanigans happened, always alone. I have not been bothered by this, in fact it felt like the right move. And this is in no small part because for a number of years fireworks have tended to depress me. I realize that is a bit bizarre and I have always felt fairly ridiculous about it. I know quite a few people who feel a lot of anxiety or PTSD triggers about them, but I have yet to meet someone who feels a lot of despair about pretty explosions in the sky. But it was pretty reliable for a number of years. I would sit and watch the fireworks and feel myself spiraling into a sucking hole of sadness. Sometimes I could pull out of it after, sometimes not, but it was never particularly pleasant. So I figured it didn’t hurt to just avoid the whole thing.
This year I had an impulse to do something though. I’m housesitting for David and the Superhero, who have been gone on what seems like the longest trip ever to Scotland (they will be home soon) and their house is extremely close to where the town lights off the fireworks. I thought maybe I would see what my brothers were up to and we could have some food and head out to watch things blow up.
The day was not how I expected. When I told my brother how hot this house gets (seriously, it is like whoever designed it was hoping no air would ever flow) he suggested maybe we should just go to my parents’ house. After all, they were going to the bbq they go to every year, they certainly wouldn’t be around. This wasn’t just perfect – it was really weird timing. In the past week I had told two different people about how much I had been wishing I could get back into my parents’ house to look through the old family photo albums. But I had no idea how that would ever happen… and here an opportunity had literally just dropped into my lap.
So that’s exactly what we did. We bought food, we went home and I pulled out all of the pictures. I used my phone to take pictures of many of them. Mostly of myself, but also a number from my parents’ wedding and a couple of just other things. I took one of my parents’ wedding pictures. They’ll never miss it. I doubt my mom has gone through that album in… well, I doubt anyone has gone through it since whenever I last did. I was always the one who wanted to look back. This one wasn’t even in the album, it was a double print, and it was in an envelope in the back. They’re outside, holding hands. Mom in particular looks tired but they both look incredibly young (dad was 26 and mom was 29) and cute and happy. If I’m going to keep any image of my parents, I would prefer it not be what they turned into. I’d rather keep them like that, and try to remember that once upon a time they started out very differently from where they are now. Nothing really turned out like anyone planned.
The house itself seemed smaller, and I can’t really explain why. I’d like to believe I’ve grown up since I was last there two and a half years ago but you know. Not like… physically. Still, it seemed smaller. But nothing hurt. Nothing felt nostalgic. Nothing felt anything. It just was what it was.
I also went through all of their books that they have hidden away in cupboards. My parents rarely get rid of books. I know there are some they must have gotten rid of, but I think those would mostly be things particularly relating to like child-raising – things that someone else might have needed. But most of their books are still intact. They’re spreading out to shelves all over the house, creeping into the other rooms that used to be mine and my brother’s. Anything on the main shelves they would miss but those ones in cupboards and corners? They haven’t been touched in years. I dug through them all myself and came home with twelve terrible looking things. Did any of you know that Michael Farris, the monstrous man who heads up the Homeschool Defense League, wrote at least 2 novels in the late 90’s? Oh yeah, also he’s from Washington and so they’re set around my area. One is about the evil CPS system and one is about a good Christian group going up against an evil abortion clinic. Possibly coming soon to recaps near you. We shall see.
I think I got everything I wanted there. Someday, in what I hope is the pretty far future, I assume all the pictures will be mine anyway. I don’t think my brothers will want them. I’m the one who always wants to rifle through the past. But for now, I think I have what I need.
I was a little worried when we went to see the fireworks that night. After all, it had been a weird day. I felt okay about it right then but maybe I wouldn’t, maybe I would feel that same depression coming back over me. But you know what? I was fine. I laid in the grass and watched the fireworks. They were pretty. I am neither particularly in love with them or particularly against them but they were fine. I thought about how strangely solitary watching fireworks is. Even when you are in a large group of people, it’s not really a communal experience. Perhaps other people do feel that way, but to me it is one that always makes me feel very much on my own in a crowd. And I think that’s what used to make me so sad. I had a hard time being on my own, or being reminded that I was alone. I felt like deep down, that was the true thing, that maybe all the rest of it was just a cover-up.
Now I know that’s not the case at all. I know how to watch something beautiful and experience it by myself and with myself. While I have no doubt that I will always be an extremely social person, and will always process primarily by sharing things, I am no longer afraid of being with me for a while. I know I have amazing people and I am deeply connected to many of them. That is the true thing.
Happy 4th, everyone.