The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. A dozen or so years ago my hub and I started wandering down to watch the 8:00 a.m. 10K race. From the comfort of chairs in the median, under beautiful old trees, we'd drink coffee, watch the runners sprint out Main Street, loop around and make their way back downtown. One year we invited a few people over for more coffee and brunch after the race; within a few years it was an annual event. Several of us were having our babies so the numbers - and the chaos - grew along with the fun. The party would wrap up in time for the parade.
We lived in that comfortable old bungalow, our first house, for nearly a dozen years, surrounded by friends who became extended family: the golden days of lemonade stands, snowball fights, potty training... long afternoons on one or another of our porches, yelling when the kids ventured too close to the street, decorating cookies on Halloween and at Christmas.
One of my closest friends began talking about how cramped their house felt after daughter #2; we'd had the similar itch for more space. It wasn't long until reality hit - our Richmond Avenue days were numbered. We were the first to go, and then Judi and Clark; Meredith and Jim took jobs in Louisville, then Josh and Sarah left... It isn't that we moved a great distance, but it was just enough to disrupt our habits of raiding each other's medicine chests and refrigerators, bonding over the trauma and tedium of sleepless nights, skinned knees, birthday parties, and, always brunch on the 4th.
My immune system must have drawn strength from those seasons on the porch; soon after we moved I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (similar to rheumatoid), and I couldn't keep up with my own family let alone friends. A couple of summers went by and then Ron and Vickie took over the 4th. I was thrilled, albeit relieved; a tradition had been restored.
I wasn't thinking those warm thoughts earlier this week as I sat draped in black plastic, my head layered in folds of tin foil; just that my husband was leaving for a conference in New York City. I was sick and a single parent and I threw myself a good old pity party. But when I got home there was a message. Bring a dish if you want - or not - just come.
I hadn't seen some of the people since the last 4th; it seems we're all juggling a bit too much, having trouble staying in touch. The fabulous food, lively conversation and familiar banter lifted my spirits; I was invigorated after three hours with old and new friends I didn't even realize I'd be so glad to see.
So, while the Altered Attic has become my primary refuge - writing and art are solitary even for those not plagued by swollen joints and flu-like fatigue - the fastest way out of a funk is focusing on other people. Whether it's through this blog, by email or phone, I feel a renewed call to act. To let people know just how much they mean to me, how extraordinary it is to share an ordinary moment. After all, love is a verb; to call it a feeling is like saying food is the same as eating; we all crave the nourishment of connection, illness or not, in a state of funk or one of amazed awareness.
We left just in time to dash downtown and hop on our neighborhood float. My friend next to me commented on the sea of happy faces, all people who still believe in the necessity of parades. And being together.
Happy 4th of July to all.