Who are you on the Fourth of July? Pyromaniac? Misty-eyed, singing along with a military choir? Are you throwing candy from a firetruck in a parade? Clapping for ah-ooo-gah and politicians you’ve never heard of and senior citizens who fought in wars before you were born and kids on bikes with red white and blue streamers in their spokes? Are you in a sundress, catching fireflies on a golf course, a Dixieland jazz band in the distance? Drinking your first beer on a beach with a boy a few yards away from a band of laughing suntanned grownups eating fried chicken? Are you lying on your back on an old football blanket gazing up at the firework finale, wishing it wasn’t about to be all over?
Where are you now? Are you getting ready to make the myth come true in fireworks and potato salad, hoisting that flag, setting that picnic table, tapping that keg, digging up some John Phillip Sousa?
Or are you like me: a child inside a grown-up, missing her father like crazy. Missing his sunburned forehead and this dry thick hand holding yours extra hard when the fireworks are like chandeliers in the humid midwestern sky. Maybe his breath smells a little like gin. Maybe he whispers into your ear, “I’m a sucker for the Fourth of July.” Maybe you don’t want to be a grown up. Maybe you just want to be a kid, at home, in the midwest. Maybe you cry on the 4th of July. Dread it, even. Maybe no parade is ever the same without your dad. Maybe sometimes we write to cry because we need to cry. Maybe we can cry through a parade and a firework display and no one will notice for our sunglasses and then the dark night. Maybe holidays without the ones we shared them with as kids don’t have to be happy. And we can call it good. Maybe the poppies popping in the garden are all the fireworks we need.