Wisdom (from a 7 year old)

I admit, I approached the Fourth of July, in fact the whole week, with a bit (maybe a lot?) of melancholy. Maybe it was hard to shake? But maybe I didn’t try? And you know what….I’m not so sure that is a bad thing. Why? Because I was aware, very aware of how I was feeling. And I think it’s so important to feel, to process every emotion.. even the ones that unexpectedly pop up, even the ones that don’t. Selfishly, it was hard watching families share the day together – I wanted the same. My mom’s friend commented “Oh, you have no kids today? Enjoy this time!” I couldn’t even muster a full (fake) smile to her words that were in so direct contrast to my wishes. Not too long after, my mom looked to a woman she was speaking to and asked “Is it okay that I tell her?” and then across the boat dock loudly stated “She had Stage 3 Breast Cancer!” This woman’s battle, who I did not know, my mom suddenly felt – as I sat with my brother about 10 feet away from her – should be announced to me at that moment. What??

Truthfully my mom’s energy is not one that is positive. Managing how I allow her energy to affect me can be draining in and of itself. But still I was aware. The whole day. I consciously breathed in the salt water air, felt the ocean breeze against my body, and enjoyed with a vengeance the sea salt and vinegar Cape Cod chips. My brother made us all belly laugh as is his talent. And my sweet nieces gave me so much unconditional love as I knew they would. My dearest sister-in-law and I shared a few eye rolls as she struggled (understandably so) to manage my mother’s behavior. And my father, well with each year I ┬áhave come to appreciate more and more his patience and kindness and calm way. How I wish I were more like him.

But the highlight of the day was when my 7 year old ┬ániece looked at me and said “This is the best day ever!” We had done nothing out of the ordinary this day – boating, tubing, eating. So I curiously and somewhat perplexed asked “Why?” And quite matter-of-factly she stated “Because first, it’s Fourth of July. And.. I got to eat a cake pop and a cannoli. And I got to tube. And I got to stand there in the front of the boat.” And there in that moment all wrapped up in my beautiful, wisdom-full niece was gratitude and mindfulness and love. It quite literally stopped me, gave me pause. I am so happy I was present for that gift.

The Fourth

I do love everything about the Fourth of July. From parades to cookouts to the red, white, and blue to the fireworks. I love love fireworks. But this year is different. My boys decided to spend the holiday with their father. With their grandparents, cousins, aunt, and uncle. And their father’s girlfriend. If I told you my heart is hurting, it’d be an understatement. It’s a physical space I once shared with them…to be honest, I’m feeling somewhat replaced. My oldest was allowed to bring his girlfriend and as a result was in his glory. And T..well T just goes with the flow. But me, being without them on my favorite holiday pains me. It’s so incredibly opposite of all that I wanted. And this emptiness can feel suffocating. The tug of emotions. Happy for them and for their father to have this time with them…especially D who rarely spends time with his father. And I am happy for my (ex) in-laws for they love having their family together. Yet, the core of me is sad. And I get that may be selfish. And I get that time marches on. And I get that it’s been nearly five years. But family is in my heart. It’s in my being. And I don’t think any amount of time will change that for me.

So today I will spend time with my parents, my brother, and his family. And I will give my three precious nieces a few extra hugs today. Their ever relentless love for me will somehow soothe my shaking soul I know. And will keep me from just curling up in a ball, crying myself into a defeated sleep to wake to a reality that will shock me once again. I know chances are each stumble, each fall, will only act to strengthen me in the end. And I am fighting to stay clear, to stay strong, and true. This Fourth of July is different yes. But I think it just may be a turning point.

The Fourth

The fireworks, the smell of the grill, parades, the American Flag, watermelon, and corn on the cob, and potato salad, and patriotic colored desserts. The traffic, lawn chairs, fire truck horns, blueberries, and strawberries, and s’mores. And more fireworks. The Fourth of July. It’s friendships, families, camaraderie. It’s independence. The irony does not escape me. My favorite holiday is about coming together, independently.

The boys will be celebrating separately, by choice, doing what they each love. This alone gives me some piece of mind. For they are happy. Making memories that they will cherish. But my place is lost. Maybe this Fourth of July is more about independence for me?