Yesterday the village streets were filled with little girls wearing red white and blue flowery dresses and boys in their good khakis and linen shirts carrying cotton candy and light up necklaces and swords. The streets were filled with people strolling from the ice cream place to the church lawn for lobster rolls. The parade was at 5 and then there was meandering til the fireworks started at 9.
We watched the parade from a wide porch filled with rockers and happy little kids on the lawn chasing balls. Then we all had dinner at a place where you jockeyed for a table on a first come first served porch with a whole bunch of hot hungry entitled folks who were hoping for a table with food and a view of the fireworks later on. The maitre d was practically hiding out rather than referee.
I was carrying my own bag of expectations to that porch. We were all together kids, girlfriend, and parents for the first time since the troubles of last spring. A summer porch with some good seafood, maybe some champagne, (like my friend who keenly understands how to manage large groups always has on hand), and fireworks seemed like a noisy distracted enough place to manage the feelings and watch ourselves have a little fun. But first we had to get a table big enough. After losing one, splitting up the group, giving some of us a table, and almost arguing over another I saw the possibilities in several tables who were finishing up. I negotiated with some other women standing in line who grabbed one while we grabbed another. Then there was only one more couple needing to finish. I promised the people behind us that they could have the one our kids were using, the women would give us one of theirs keeping the one off by itself and, and we would then move to the ones about to be vacated. It was a complicated dance with some staff and people in line who seemed confused and almost querulous. I explained to the waiter that he was going to get four full tables if he could stand the wait while we held tables and gobbled up bread. There was the nervousness of being eyed warily by others who were hoping to nab tables and at least a little embarrassment by a couple in our group who didn’t want any of this attention. But in the end there were four friendly tables toasting one another amid the camaraderie of shared success.
Look I knew I couldn’t control whether these people I am related to were nice to one another or enjoyed themselves or not. I have been working this year on finding deeper ways of letting go. Control is an illusion. I know it. But by God I could control this table dance and at least set the stage.
And you know what? It mostly worked. We drank champagne and ate crab and the fireworks over the harbor were practically right outside our open-air windows. It seemed almost as if the whole enterprise had been created just for us. Someone, not me, toasted and everyone including me joined in.
I came here to work and be closer to one kid while toting another one and his pals along. Then the rest of them showed up and now we seem to be stringing together a new story. There are still the other stories too. This new version won’t replace those, but it can sit alongside them until eventually that other harder bit is just a piece…not the whole thing … but just one narrative in a series of the long history that is a family’s life. Now that history includes working together with a whole bunch of strangers on a steamy night next to a harbor sky filled with the sparkly lights of a 4th of July. One of the kids poked fun of one of those parent things I always say practically every July…This is America. And in America we get up in the mornings, we go to work and we solve our problems.
Well…maybe just maybe.
Happy happy 4th of July.