Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Fourth of July

Summer family roadtrip. Kids are plugged in, Chip and I are listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver on CD....the sun is shining, the roads are clear. Passing through four midwest states on the way to our family reunion in Parsons, Kansas.

Parsons is where Grandma and Grandpa lived and where for many years Chip's family returned at Christmastime to celebrate en masse under Grandma and Grandpa's giant tree with all the aunts and uncles and cousins. Chip has lots of wonderful memories of Parsons but one of my favorites is that of the semi-freeforall at bedtime...falling asleep in a bed only to find himself on the floor in the morning, displaced by an adult at some point in the night. That's when kids were kids and parents still ran the show.

We obviously feel a deep sense of loss this year without Chip's dad, our Grandpa. But being together with his brothers and sisters, maybe a budge and a nudge forward, like kayaks stuck on a sandbar. A wave of water or a hard paddle push jostling our bottoms to a brief moment of buoyancy. It's painstaking to push and we get stuck again and again but it feels a little functional to be moving my boat of grief gently and ever so slowly toward more open water. Olivia felt herself losing it a little bit last night at our dinner, so we went to the car for a little cry and were surprisingly okay. She's not afraid to be sad and I admire her so much for that because I sure am scared. Her kayak is already headed for the open water, while I may still be lingering back here in the reeds for a little longer.


We pass more fireworks Big Tops than we do every exit through Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, some yellow and white, some red and white but tents lining the highways all clearly in the business of selling as many fireworks as possible in the next 72 hours. A stop in Grinnell, IA to see the Grinnell College campus (future college applicants in our car look disdainfully at the empty campus and cry, "Too country!") and have some dinner. We're treated to a salsa band in the park courtesy of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, where a handful of people are enjoying a summer evening of dance and music on the eve of the holiday weekend. The town is pretty deserted but Pagliai's is open for pizza. The Pagliais were an Italian couple who immigrated to Iowa in the early twentieth century and introduced pizza to the midwest, so they claim.

Having spent most of my life in big cities where fireworks are an incredible no-no (a legacy of Mrs. O'Leary and her cow, I think), I feel like I'm witness to criminal activity with all these fireworks for sale in broad daylight. I suppose the reality is when the population is less dense, fireworks are not necessarily just an organized city-sponsored fire department monitored event. How many fools will blow their fingers off tonight in these flat, wide-open midwestern towns is an individual's right of freedom since it's unlikely they're capable of starting the likes of a Great Chicago Fire.

Reunion at the Parsons rec center. I have broken the rules several times tonight even before I saw the sign.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure they'd excuse your 'damn this is fun' or "chip, what the hell did we do before discovering Parsons?"