It is funny, I was thinking as I sit here on an early Sunday morning how the meaning of "Holiday Weekend' has changed since becoming parents. Prior to the boys holidays usually meant far-ranging trips or gatherings with our fairly wild group of friends to revel and make music and drink well into the wee hours of the night. Then get up at noon to do it again the next day as it was a Holiday weekend and that is what one does to holiday. We had slowed down quite a bit in the year before deciding to try, but let me tell you, our group of friends has not.
This year was the first Holiday in which the boys have been truly able to participate. Funny, the 4th never held a great significance as a holiday for me, a nice day for BBQs and beer and admiring the fireworks, usually through a fairly inebriated haze. Our first year with the boys we saw the show, snuggling 2 month old twins to our chest and bleary eyed from exhaustion. Last year we skipped the fireworks altogether but had folks over for a fun day of water play. This year was totally different than any one ever before, imbued with something hard to describe.
We have a local parade, as most smallish towns do. It features home made floats and a lot of official vehicles blaring their sirens and flashing their lights. There are a few classic cars, the varied kid teams and a giant draft horse thrown in for good measure. Our friend has a home right on the parade route, smack in the middle of downtown La Verne. It is the first year we have had a home to move in and out of, able to refresh a drink and or grab a snack.
The boys had their buddy Zach and a small pool, the seats were set and then the parade started and I have never seen our kids so totally enraptured of an event.
I mean, we are talking glued to their seats (our laps) and screaming in excitement, grabbing our arms to direct our attention to the "Cool Car!" "Blue Car!" "Big Horse (with Guy!)" (she was a girl) "Fire Truck!"
Our friends were dying of laughter at the sheer joy they were expressing and their worried expressions every time the parade stalled and there was a gap in the parade.
It was AWESOME. And I mean for me, for us. It was what I thought it would be like, this parenting gig. It was simply awesome.
The day was full up, we started at Jenn's house then nap then back out to our friend's BBQ in their sweet 50s style ranch home. The second party held a Slip and Slide and excellent burgers, kids for our kids to play with and a precious baby girl. We were there in the early evening, that tried and true stretch from 4 to 7 when you know the kids can handle it. They had a blast, it was a totally safe spot though not technically a kid home, and we could sit back a bit and relax with a cold drink.
As we gathered swim suits and tried to track down a number of Thomas the Train engines, our friends without little started to arrive. Most of our friends are stills sans children and they were gearing up to get the night started...drums unloading, drinks poured and that certain loosening you can feel when a night is going to be long and go strong. There was a little twitch inside and a joke about putting the kids in a cab home to my parents, but in truth, the place I really wanted to be was with them.
We have been hyping the fireworks in hopes that they would love them, and stay up long enough to see them. We welcomed dusk at yet another home, my brothers' backyard, where we put the chickens to roost in their coop and changed into long pants and gathered blankies. I could feel their excitement building and though their eyes were sleepy it was like they knew something special was coming. And then we took the walk to the park in the full dark, half past nine, an hour I have not seen them up to greet since they were infants that first 4th, and they shouted as they watched the first huge bursts shine above. And we found a comfortable and free spot in the park, snuggled together, the boys nestled safely in our laps, holding tight to their blankies and welcomed our first real Holiday into our lives. And made anyone within a 12 foot radius laugh listening to Mace narrate the Booming of the Booms :: "More boom coming" "Boom" "Blue Boom" "Red Boom" "Orange Boom" "No more Boom?" etc etc...
There is something about family and traditions, local and unrushed, that I am learning to savor. There is magic there, a sometimes quiet and sometimes exhausting magic. When I allow myself to be fully truthful, I realize the fortune of my life, spilling out of my lap and into every part of my days. I feel the luck and joy and bounty that is my life, the ways the boys have healed and opened and magnified everything. And I can sit content, clear eyed on a Sunday morning, ready to greet them into another day, holiday or not.
I see why the pull of family is the most precious thing we can identify. Watching my family mingle with new families and with old friends, my children kiss and hug their "uncles" and "aunties" good night and exclaim to anyone listening about the "Blue Booms!", it makes my heart full. And I think today, on this July 5th, I am looking to the next July 4th with an anticipation and eager heart like I never have before.
I know it is a celebration of our country, but for me it is now a new celebration of our family, one I will remember for a very long time.