1/4 of July, You Can Keep The Other 3
July Fourth weekend. A time when we, as Americans, stop for a few days to ponder the great questions of life, like "Aren't we awesome?" and "No, but really, don't we rule?".
Each year, we spend this most patriotic of days celebrating in just the same way our founding fathers did, by piling the kids into a massive, road hogging SUV and hauling them off to visit relatives they'd just as soon not remember, going to fairs and consuming far too much sugar and poorly cooked meat, and topping it all off by breathing in second hand sulfurous smoke and wondering just how long it's going to take to get out of our parking space after the fireworks are over.
This year, the Fourth occurs on a Tuesday and thus represents for most people the culmination of a four day weekend (Wednesday represents the day we all crawl back in to work bleary eyed and, somewhat the worse for wear, recognize that we simply can not be trusted with that much free time and patriotism, as measured in pints of beer).
Today was day one. My dear wife Janet and I decided to pack up the children (all 27 of them, based on the cost of the day and the amount of sound emanating from behind me as I drove the van) and head over to one of our local New Hampshire towns for their Fourth festivities.
These were not your average urban area's celebrations. To say that I found the whole day underwhelming is to say that Ben Affleck found Gigli "mildly embarrassing". To give you an idea, the most exciting part of the day was our trip to one of those monolithic chain stores with "Mart" in the name which have been accused of destroying small business, underpaying the poor, kidnapping the Lindberg baby, widening the hole in the ozone layer and introducing errors into my 2003 Federal Schedule C.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Coming up with the proper description for the events of the first part of the day calls upon all of my skills as a writer, working to come up with this subtle and yet highly descriptive image of the "Faire": it was a garage sale. Really, this whole town's Fourth of July celebration consisted of three large tents on the church lawn, and with the exception of a hot dog vendor, a lemonade stand, someone selling strawberry shortcake and (why not!) a large wheel of cheese, the space was entirely taken up with people selling items which, by the look of them, had only comparatively recently been freed from long captivity within cardboard boxes in the attics and basements of town residents.
They didn't even have fireworks, although to return to a recurring theme in these little whimsical flights of fancy (specifically, the "Liam is really old" theme), somehow I managed to get tinitis in my right ear anyway. (Tinitis, for those who haven't been on the planet since vaguely the time man first walked erect, is when one or both of your ears decides that the soundtrack to life needs a bit of enhancement, and that what is really called for is to mute everything down to a barely audible level and then overlay everything with a subtle whistling tone at just the right frequency and volume to make your fillings melt. This is often referred to as "ringing in the ears" because it's just too depressing to come right out and say "the sound of your highly pressurized brain slowly leaking out a small hole in your eardrum".)
So, half an hour and four overcooked oatmeal cookies later, we were back in the car and trying to figure out what to do to salvage the day, when my son said “Dad, I'd really like to go pick out a birthday gift for my sister”. My son Andrew will be 13 in about two months, and because I realize that these moments of selfless concern for, or even awareness of, others will soon go the way of the Betamax and actual “service” at service stations, I feel I should indulge them while they last, and so we all headed to the aforementioned source of all that is evil and unholy in the world so that my older son could spend his money on a gift for his sister.
As you may know, the type of store to which I refer seems to regard it as a personal challenge to try to remove any need for anyone to ever see sunshine again. Really, if they just had apartments, the people who work in the store could buy anything they could ever conceivably need (cheaply made and cheaply sold) in the same place they worked and lived and could turn the art of anti-tanning into the true ashen whiteness that can only come from never exposing your body to any form of light that did not begin its existence in a florescent tube. This particular store has a bank, an eye doctor, a cell phone provider, a franchise of a popular chain of donut restaurant and a photo studio in it, and as we were paying for our packages and trying to distract my daughter from trying to get a peek at her presents a few weeks early, my wife said "Hey, let's get portraits of the kids!"
Now, really, she could just as easily have said "Hey! Let's see how far up our noses we can shove a #2 pencil eraser end first!" or "Hey! Let's translate the entire case history of the United States Supreme Court into pig Latin!" for all the enthusiasm I had for her suggestion, but apparently she'd forgotten how much fun it is to get four children's hair brushed and keep them from punching each other while simultaneously trying to make the baby, who has been nothing but an absolute joy all day but who has suddenly decided that THIS is the moment that he's been waiting for to begin wailing as though he'd just learned his entire future 401(k) was invested in Enron, smile.
Nevertheless, as men throughout the ages have learned, it is best not to stand between a woman and properly staged photographic memories of her children, and so in we tromped and sat down with all the subtlety and decorum of a prison riot and made life hell for the poor photo technician on duty today. Miraculously, the pictures all came out really well on the computerized preview screen, which just means that this is the roll of film that the studio will accidentally expose to light while attempting the development process.
And then it was time, with the aid of a crowbar, to wedge all of the children back into the van for the long trip back home and the prospect of trying to get children who have been hyped up by the thrill ride that is shopping calm enough so that they can get to sleep.
And thus ended day one of the four day Independence Day weekend. If the rest of the weekend is this exciting, my heart may burst! I'm pretty sure my eardrum already did.
Copyright © July 1, 2006 by Liam Johnson. http://liam-humor.blogspot.com