Friday, July 8, 2016

{One Way or Another}

Twenty-five years ago, my sister and I stood before the bathroom mirror, coiffing and giggling. It was the 4th of July and a glorious day awaited. As per tradition, our family would head down to Officer's Row to the home of our very dear "Uncle" Ron and "Auntie" Marlene. We'd gather with other families and do very patriotic things, like wave flags, grill burgers, listen to guitars and banjos, and marvel over apple pies and strawberry shortcakes.

I was fifteen, my sister thirteen, and it was the early nineties. This meant that our hair was big and held firmly in place by Aqua Net, our nails were fiercely glittered, and our Keds were red and blue. (We each swapped a shoe to make a very patriotic -- and, we hoped, impressive -- statement.)

What I didn't know at the time was that this day would become a sort of anniversary. After the lawn and barbecue festivities, our families sauntered down toward the gazebo (church friends met "to the right of the gazebo" every year) to prepare for the Fort's fireworks show. My sister and I spread out our blanket and poised ourselves in our red, white and blue cuteness, giggling and watching. Because you just never know who might walk by.

Well, one certain young man did walk by. It was providential -- some of his friends hadn't arrived, so he went with Plan B, which involved checking out the crew "to the right of the gazebo." We'd known each other for ten years, but something about the excitement of the day (or was it the Aqua Net?) caused him . . . to stay. He and a couple of friends decided that our blanket would be a nice one to share. We welcomed them warmly, flashing our smiles and glitter, and somehow everything just clicked. The fireworks were especially memorable that year, and Jamie and I started dating three months later.

Over the years, we've celebrated the 4th in various ways, but once kids came along it just never seemed practical to head down to the Fort. That is, until this year. Over our barbecue meal on Monday afternoon, we retold our kids about that festive day long ago, and we suddenly realized it had been 25 years. Something in the significance of that caused us to decide that we really should go to the Fort again this year.

So we packed our blankets and headed down. Much was the same. Elephant ears called our names (and we answered). Girls still walked around with coiffed hair and boys still joked loudly, hoping someone might notice. Toddlers still ran about in patriotic tutus, and parents still sat on coolers or tossed around frisbees.

Some things were different. The 80s band played songs that were now considered "oldies." One way or another I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha. There were frequent pauses for "selfies" among the crowd, and iPhones provided a noticeable level of entertainment and diversion.

Avery noticed something different, too. Something that smelled like . . . weird popcorn. We hesitated and then broke the news to our innocent pixie. "That's marijuana, honey."

Pixie was appalled. "Marijuana?!?! Why are people drinkin' marijuana?!?!"

The fireworks had changed too, in that the show was a bit shorter than it had been 25 years ago. But the delight in our lives was even greater, knowing that we'd shared those years together, and it really wasn't the Aqua Net, Keds, or glitter that had orchestrated our destinies, after all.

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