This morning’s waking was not a speedy one. It was a holiday – the 4th of July – which meant Mike was still sleeping next to me, and despite my occasional half wakings as it grew lighter to thoughts such as, “I should go for a run before it’s too late,” and “If I don’t go right now, there won’t be time,” then, “It’s too late for a run, but I ought to shower so I can get the kids ready in time for the parade,” and, “In a few more minutes I will for sure get up” – despite those thoughts, I didn’t wake up until a text from Mike’s aunt Leisa asking about the start of the parade finally fully woke me.
Before too much longer the morning was in full swing. I was calling to kids to get dressed and to come and get their hair done. Mike was getting out bikes for he and the older four to ride up to the parade. Anders was drinking his bottle and occasionally crawling to Mike or myself to be held. Kids were finding shoes and socks. Sunblock was being packed. The stroller was being loaded into the truck bed. And then we were out the door: Abe and Daisy ahead of us – riding to Grandma and Grandpa’s where other cousin parade goers would be gathering. Mike pulling Penny. Goldie pedaling along beside him, and me driving off to find parking as close as I could with Jesse and Anders.
The parade was the usual fun local parade. There had been rumors that candy throwing was out this year, and Mike’s aunt even brought small packages of Goldfish and Cookies to offset this travesty. The kids hadn’t given up hope though and were rewarded for their faithful plastic bag bringing by candy being thrown their way after all. There was the fun of visiting with family, and bumping into old friends and neighbors along with the inevitable awkward moments of struggling in conversations with people you know from somewhere that you just can’t place.
After the parade Mike took the older four to the park where there were booths selling overpriced trinkets along with free miniature carnival type games. The plan was to have hamburgers and hot-dogs at his parents’ house shortly after, but first, I headed to our house.
Back at home I put the two smallest boys for naps and looked speculatively at the computer. The house was absolutely quiet (something it hadn’t been since late May when school was still in session and the little ones all napping), and it seemed nothing would be more enjoyable than sitting in the stillness and typing for a moment.
But, the house was in quite a state. The state a house gets in only when there is bustling and rushing to get an entire family of eight out of the door by a certain time – dressed and presentable. The state it gets in only when normal methods of “clean things up as you go” simply aren’t possible.
There was cereal scattered across the kitchen floor. It occurred to me that in the rush of morning I hadn’t actually made sure anyone got breakfast. The cereal covered floor happily suggested that at least some few children had eaten. I nodded my inward approval. Then wondered vaguely at what point “some” kids having eaten, bathed, or brushed their hair had become an acceptable standard.
The remains of Goldie’s birthday accounted for a fair amount of of the clutter. Balloons lay lazily about nearly every floor surface. Somehow each balloon had been specifically claimed and marked with a Sharpy by one child or another and I innately understood that popping them now was simply too soon for their individual owners to handle, so I shuffled them all into a somewhat contained corner between two couches – setting the ones that kept drifting back out more pointedly or closer to a wall. The “summer cabin” ginger bread houses that had become ruins of their initial glorious selves I placed in the window ledge above the kitchen sink: knowing there would need to be a few more days of small hands prying off tootsie rolls and gumdrops before they could be fully retired to the garbage can. There were the new toys as well. They hadn’t yet made themselves completely at home; hadn’t yet found their own resting spots out of the spot light. Some still sat – display like near the fireplace, a few had migrated to the out-of-Anders’-reach counter near the telephone. Still others had made it up the stairs nearly to the girls’ bedroom only to fall short of a final resting spot.
Mike had been putting a bike together the night before and the handlebarless bike, along with the box it came in, the removed cardboard and plastic, various reflectors and other small parts lay strewn here and there across the living room.
There was the large pile of laundry that had made it to but not through the laundry room door, the puzzle and game of Perfection Jesse had been playing with on the kitchen table, the present bags and wrapping paper that had been left on the basement stairs (in hopes of being returned into the Tupperware they came from). The game of Candyland that had also been set on those stairs had, through carelessness, been knocked down --spilling small gingerbread looking men and brightly colored cards in its wake.
I looked at the mess, thought about the calm of writing at the computer, then compromised.
The main floor I tidied – cereal was swept up, games were put back in broken boxes and carried downstairs along with wrapping paper and gift bags. Counters were cleared and bike parts all shoved into the box they came from. One load of laundry went into the machine while the rest was simply kicked further in past the threshold of the laundry room.
But, the dishes only went into the sink – where they would have to keep, unwashed, for the moment. The upstairs landing – which is meant to serve as a tidy little computer area, but has slowly become the overflow area for all things waiting to go in (folded laundry, stuffed animals left downstairs), or having made their way out of (Barbies that needed more space to play, toys that haven’t anywhere specific to go) the children’s bedrooms – would have to remain in a state of mild chaos.
Soon I found myself sitting and thinking of what I wanted to record and then simply recording what I have been – the completely insignificant bits and pieces of one small summer holiday.
I didn’t get far. The time tidying up had driven too far into nap time, and, it seemed I’d just begun when I could hear Anders making various experimental babbling sounds in his crib and my post had to be set aside to possibly finish up later.
I’d hoped, for a moment, that I would have found something to say about this holiday that was more than sunblock and parades, fireworks and hamburgers. Abe had asked me, last Sunday, why we were singing The Star Spangled Banner in church. I didn’t have a very satisfactory answer. It just seemed that of course we’d sing songs of America and freedom in church. Of course the two were somehow connected, but I expressed my thoughts falteringly.
As I typed, my mind went back to a time several years ago when my family was all gathered for a reunion of sorts near my sister’s small town Idaho home. My dad had asked my oldest brother Mark, a Colonel in the Air Force, to share a few thoughts about freedom and this country of ours. I don’t recall what he said. I only remember that it tugged on some previously unacknowledged part of my soul and pried open areas that had been snuggly sleeping in lack of gratitude or awareness. As I thought of the feelings I got from that speech, I quickly paused my own recordings of parade candy and house messes to email him – asking if he’d recorded any of what he’d said that day. He hadn’t, but tried to call me to see if discussing it might spring out some of the same patriotism I was looking for. I missed the call and returned it only to have him gone.
Now it is night. Three kids have gone to bed and three others are waiting for enough darkness to fall for us to go out and light off the one rather sadly sized pack of fireworks we purchased – mostly to appease Daisy’s repeated pleadings. I haven’t recorded anything very patriotic, but perhaps there is something yet to come, something more to feel and appreciate as I head out to watch my oldest kids giggling over the magic of colorful bursts of fire. We shall see.
And off I go. Goodnight to all of you, and happy 4th of July!