Monday, July 5, 2010

Our Independence Day

Two years or so ago, we realized we'd made some cataclysmic miscalculations regarding mortgages, expanding the family, etc. Pretty much all the big stuff. My wife's car was dying (although it held on for quite a while longer), she was pregnant, couldn't work, I hated my job, and eventually was laid off anyway. We call that time of our lives "Crisis Mode," because almost every single day brought some new crisis, some new disappointment, some setback, some new challenge. So many times I thought we were done. Just done. But somehow, likely because of my wife's encouragement and level head (most of the time-- heh!), I summoned just enough strength to get through one more day.

Lately we've been able to breathe. Once, we even had some money left over at the end of the month! (And we're not big spenders -- I won't tell you our monthly budget, but friends and neighbors, it ain't much). I still pretty much work around the clock, but now I know that, even if a good chunk of everything were to fall apart, we'd be okay. Not "let's go to the Hamptons next week to brainstorm about which private jet we should get" okay, but normal people okay.

Last night we went to a birthday party / Independence Day party with our boys. We had to leave early because, well, they're both young enough to be confused about where the bathroom is (not the pants, boys), but on the way home our oldest reminded us in very clear terms that we'd promised BIG FIREWORKS. (You really need to hear how he says it -- he deepens his little voice with something like gravitas). "See...BIG FIREWORKS!"

There was still some light out, and there was no way in Hades I was about to drive into the city on the 4th of July with two babies. However, there was a long stretch of open road along the GW Parkway just south of Old Town, though, with a big grassy expanse teeming with fireflies even in the low light. Might work.

Little Joe and I killed the remaining daylight minutes chasing said fireflies. (Our newest little Truck Buddy kept my wife busy in the car with his 87th feeding of the day). "Geh...lie..buhs" Joe kept yelling, which roughly translates to "Get those punk-a$$ lightning bugs!" Which we did. En masse. With Joe riding on my shoulders. With Joe on my back. With me chasing after Joe after he chased the bugs toward the very busy GW Parkway. 

The sunlight finally gave out, and the field by the side of the road (golf course, actually) was positively illuminated by fireflies. (Avatar fans might get a "Pandora" reference, were I to make it). And then, almost so perfectly that I wondered if Michael Bay was directing the scene, a bald eagle swooped in low from the Potomac and over the highway, right above our heads. He held a fish in his claws, or, as I thought about the fish, one of America's enemies. Hah!

The fireworks began a little bit later, but little Joe wasn't as interested in those after all. It was all about the fireflies. We all walked down the pathway (except for Joe, who, with complete disdain for anyone's safety, including his own, sprinted down the dark bike path amidst the legs of strangers and who-knows-who-else), and watched the night sky along the Potomac explode with color.

About that time I had what might be considered an ungrateful, or even self-centered thought: One could consider this our Independence Day too. I've been catching up on a little historical reading lately, and I'm very aware of the staggering risks and cost that bought America its independence. I haven't exactly pledged my life, my fortune (lol, "fortune") or property in defense of the nation. There are guys doing basically that right now in faraway hellholes where the people can't even conceive of an existence with true liberty. But this I know: we've been enslaved to a great number of fears, doubts, and even modes of thought. At least now, for hopefully a couple of months, two-and-a-half years of back-breaking labor have yielded a little reprieve from doubt and worry. Two-and-a-half years of risk and sacrifice allowed me to finally find some time to catch fireflies with my son, and take a little walk down a river-side path with my wife on a hot summer night.

Thank you God. And thank you to those who take the really big risks to ensure we civilians can have such summer night firefly walks.

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