For as long as I can remember I have always had something fun to do on the Fourth of July. There has always been someone hosting a big party or Mike and I have been traveling. I don’t recall ever just sitting at home with no destination in mind. This year was far different from any of my previous celebrations and I found the experience to be enlightening.
Virtually everyone with whom I normally celebrate was out of town this year. I suppose that the four day weekend that most people had allowed them to travel a bit farther from home and they took advantage of the opportunity. My brother who so often opened up his beach home was in the far north of the United States. My eldest daughter who has hosted pool parties at her house for several years was in the midwest in anticipation of her eldest son’s orientation at Purdue this week. Mike and I had stayed in town because I was finishing up my term at summer school and we were planning a trip in early August.
We had invited my younger daughter, Catherine, to come to town to join us in some July Fourth revelry because her husband and son were at Boy Scout camp. She had arrived on Wednesday evening and we planned to go down to Galveston. In fact, my brother and his wife offered to let us use their home on Tiki Island for a day of crabbing, kayaking, and swimming. We were excitedly planning an excursion and plotting out the weekend when a text arrived from my son-in-law that stopped us cold. We learned that my grandson, Ian, had been going downhill on a manufactured ski slope when he twisted his ankle, fell, and broke his leg. Our evening turned into one of chaos and anxiety as we awaited more word on his condition.
We learned that Ian and his dad would be returning to their home in San Antonio the following day. It would be an eight hour drive with Ian laid out in the back seat. His leg was immobilized in a splint and wrapped in gauze and he was in a great deal of pain. Luckily the medication that the doctors had provided was powerful enough to make him drowsy and so he slept most of the way. Catherine of course had rushed back home to prepare for his arrival and to contact his doctor to determine the next course of action. She left my granddaughter, Abby, with me and Mike thinking that she might have an easier time nursing Ian with fewer children under foot. Besides, she reasoned that Abby would have more fun here than being cooped up at home. With the sudden change in plans Mike and I found ourselves with nothing to do on the big national holiday.
I suppose that it would have been no big deal to either of us were it not for the fact that we had Abby in our care and she wanted to do something special. We had decided against going to Galveston even with the offer of stopping off at my brother’s place. Abby didn’t think that it would be much fun without her brothers. Somehow she didn’t relish the idea of trying to entertain herself alone. She even began to ask Mike how he had managed to endure being an only child. Of course he gave his usual explanation of his unique experience by noting that whatever one’s reality is becomes the accepted way of doing things. In other words he never knew what he was missing and so it didn’t occur to him to be sad that he had no siblings. He simply learned to enjoy the company of adults and himself, a fact that made him quite independent.
We did our best to keep Abby occupied. We took her to Central Market and had lunch. Then we gave her carte blanc to choose the “healthy” foods that she insisted that she wanted for the week. She seemed to enjoy filling the cart with fruits, vegetables, salmon, and lean meats. We all managed to forgo the temptation to buy the yummy cookies and cakes in the bakery out of deference to being good to our bodies. Besides, Abby, is a great task master and she has been on a crusade to reform her own bad eating habits and those of the people around her.
After our shopping experience Mike took her to see his old high school since we were in the neighborhood. We passed by Bayou Bend which was hosting a Free Family day. It was so crowded that we all agreed that we would not want to be near the place and so we kept driving in the general direction of home with a quick pass by Mike’s boyhood home which seemed to impress Abby not so much for its grandeur but for its potential as a fixer upper.
Once we were back home Abby insisted that we sip on all natural ingredient smoothies for lunch and then she and I headed to my favorite nail salon for pedicures. We were disappointed to find that it was closed for the holiday. Undaunted we found another one very near my house and enjoyed a relaxing time having our legs perfumed with citrus and oils and getting our feet looking quite lovely. Still there was a depressing element to the adventure because the bulk of the manicurists were sitting idly waiting for customers who were not going to come. They appeared to be bored and miffed at the same time. We instantly felt sorry for them but also began to wonder if in having nothing more to do than get a pedicure we were somehow more pathetic than they seemed to be.
We followed up our spa time with a quick jaunt to Target. Abby was looking for a pair of purple Converse high tops and we hoped that we might find some there. Instead we encountered a very dreary scene. The store was like a ghost town with lifeless individuals wandering the aisles as though they were hoping to find something wonderful in the row after row of commercial goods. The shoe department looked as though it had been ransacked. Unmatched sandals, flats, and running shoes littered the floor and nobody was making any effort to rectify the messy situation. Since there didn’t appear to be anything there that we wanted we abandoned the store as quickly as we had entered. As we were leaving Abby noted that the whole strip center seemed like a Ghost town and we laughed at the strange assortment of characters who were there, including ourselves.
With our day quickly waning we decided to have dinner. I had made a vegetarian soup that we might use during the week but Abby wanted to feast on it right away. It seemed to be a very odd choice for the Fourth of July but I was willing to go with her wishes and I knew that Mike wouldn’t care one way or another. Our only concession to nutritious feasting was to enjoy a raspberry flavored Italian soda and slices of fresh sourdough bread.
We had thought to watch the thirty seventh annual Fourth of July celebration in Washington D.C. while eating but the parade of third rate and long forgotten celebrities soon had us all feeling a bit in the dumps, especially when we heard our neighbors laughing and rocking to The Rolling Stones in their backyard pool. Abby and I moved our food outside so that we might vicariously enjoy the fun but even that plan soon backfired when they ever so politely turned down the volume on their frivolity.
Abby took matters into her own hands when she decided that she was going to march next door and introduce herself to the young girls who were enjoying themselves in the pool. I told her to knock herself out if she so desired and she was on her way. Within minutes she was back home with three giddy girls following her and asking if she might swim with them. Of course my answer was a resounding, “Yes!” Off she went with another Abby, an Anna, and a Julissa who were middle schoolers eager to embrace her into their group.
A bit later the doorbell rang again and this time it was the entire family wanting to formally introduce themselves since we had only spoken briefly and waved at each other from time to time since they had moved next door. We all talked for a bit and then they asked if Abby might accompany their crew to the local fireworks show. I could see the joy in Abby’s eyes and so I allowed her to go.
That left Mike and I alone which was just fine with us. We learned how to go with the flow a long time ago. It really doesn’t take much to make us happy. We went into the yard and gazed at the stars which were rather clear and lovely. We enjoyed the fireworks that lit up the sky all around us. We played some patriotic music and just relaxed and counted our blessings as Americans.
Abby was ecstatically happy when she returned home. She and I watched one of the Superman movies before finally retiring just a little past midnight. Abby remarked that it had indeed been an exceptional day even with all of its fits and starts and she admitted that it had been fun laughing at our situation. We said a little prayer for her brother, Ian, who was no doubt doing his best to deal with his broken bone and the loss of much of his planned summer fun. We also thought of how lucky we really are as we settled into our slumbers. We can’t always get what we want, but sometimes we get exactly what we need.