Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July

What a difference ten degrees makes! Our annual watching of the Sonoma Fourth of July Parade with DH's sister and the nieces usually involves gallons of water, searching for shade, and triple-digit heat. But this year morning fog and afternoon breezes kept the heat down to the high eighties. As a result we lingered on the square for a long time after the parade ended. Everyone had fun, and for once, nobody seemed in danger of heat stroke. Awesome.

My childhood in Upstate NY during the 1970s and 1980s is often unrecognizable to the childhood my kids experience today in the San Francisco Bay Area: economically, socially, geographically different. But Fourth of July in Sonoma always reminds me of the very best part of when I was a kid -- summer weekends spent with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Parades, family, picnics, and fireworks ...what could be better?

Going into the event I was extra nostalgic this year, because big things are changing. SIL, her husband, and the nieces will leave California for a new job and life on the East Coast by the end of August. DH and I knew that business issues made their moving away a possibility, yet when it went from theoretical to reality, we still felt shocked and heartbroken. SIL and her kids are the only relatives living within three thousand miles of us. We spend every holiday with them, plus lots of other random, hanging-out days. The A-team and the nieces adore each other.

I decided to wait a few more weeks before telling the kids about the move. It's a delicate balance. Tell them too soon, and Big A will spend months dwelling and probably not enjoy the time we have left with the nieces. But if I wait too long to tell the girls, then Big A might feel like she didn't have proper time to get used to the idea before it happens.

Sigh. All I can say is THANK GOD for skype. That should at least soften the transition.

But even with the aura of change that settled over the holiday, in the end all the adults involved managed to set aside the looming sense of finality and just have a great time. As an in-your-head sort of person, I am not exactly a party animal. But there was a nice mix of people at the party this year, plus a lot of good wine, so even I managed to be in the moment.

Walking back from the fireworks this year I struggled under the weight of my "baby" Little A. It made me realize how memory plays tricks. Here I'd been thinking that all those July 4ths in Sonoma were the same, and that this was an abrupt and startling end of it. Yet each year spent up there was a whole different world -- both for us, and for SIL and her husband. There were pregnancies, some of which resulted in live babies, and some of which did not. And there were so many job changes and transitions for all the adults. The parade might have seemed the same, but other than that, each July 4th up there was totally different, in terms of the world we were all grappling with at those moments in time.

And so by the end of the weekend I'd managed to stamp out the sour sort of nostalgia I'd started with, and I just felt satisfied and glad. We really squeezed every last bit of juicy fun out of that tradition of going up to Sonoma. Everyone involved is always going to remember those years as special. And now we get to try to dream up a new tradition for next year. That's luck. That's really good luck.