Sometimes independence on Independence Day looks like a lot of incredibly different people all sitting along a gutter on blankets to watch some light and noise gussy up the sky. Sometimes it’s a beautiful rendition of our national anthem. Other times it’s just watermelon and hamburgers.
Independence on Independence Day 2012 looked like a ruggedly handsome, beloved husband rolling into a driveway after six weeks’ of functional loneliness. Independence was letting out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. It was watching a little girl slowly light up as she started to understand what a worn-out Toyota Tacoma pulling into the driveway meant to her. It was feeling the warm, happy smiles from my parents as moments like these help remind us all why we agreed to such a long, cross-continental move. I don’t know how it worked out this way, but independence was feeling deeply connected to other people.
Before Aaron got here, we started the day by checking out a special American Legion tribute to our country’s history:
Well, actually, we were too late to see the parade, and the Santas were the next show on the festivity list. But, the band, “The Mid Life Crisis,” could really belt “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and the American Legion Santas gave a clear, brief historical recount of our country’s road to independence starting with an interesting spin on the War of 1812.
Clara watched respectfully:
Then, Aaron pulled up right before dinner. Clara was getting her bath and I’ve never seen her so eager to slip on a pull-up, get dressed, and even get her hair brushed. She was so excited to see “my daddy” and their first moments together were so sweet and tender:
Clara wouldn’t let anyone else near Aaron for a few hours after his arrival. I was shooed away multiple times as she soaked up hugs and laughed at all of Dad’s best tricks and jokes.
Even though it was a long day, we still headed out to Safety Harbor to watch the firework show. Clara was enthralled and had a nice little set-up in her chair with a cup of kettle corn and her “Hello Kitty” water bottle.
We waited forty-five minutes to peel out of the parking lot after the show and the whole night we were elbow to elbow with other celebratory folk. I always wondered why anyone would submit themselves to such crowded conditions for a couple of fireworks. Now I know. Children. The strange thing was, we weren’t just doing it for Clara and hating it. We had a great time. We were surrounded by people as sweaty and smelly as we were. We were part of a massive, rowdy crowd but we were separate and complete and content on our own. So, that was my independence—rediscovering after six weeks that independence is not being alone; it’s the strange place where you are satisfied to be simultaneously among others and on your own with the people whose love makes you who are.