Monday, July 19, 2004

Eight short scenes from three very busy weeks
 
One
Around midnight on the fourth of July, I hugged the Republican as much of my family yelled and clapped around me.  The Republican had smuggled us fireworks for the 4th of July.  My aunt and I had chipped in each a conservative amount of money, but along with the normal selection of rockets, roman candles, and sparklers we had hoped for, my sweetie brought us the largest firework any of us had ever seen.  Easily eighteen inches in circumference and standing 6 to 8 inches high, we waited all night to light it.  Doug, Laura, Audrey, Jamie and all the little children were excited.  My sister and her friend Sophie eyed my future husband in a different light after seeing the firepower he invested in.  And when it came time to light the giant red round symbol of freedom made in a China, the firework shot colored lights of multiple effects for 2 or 3 minutes straight.  The colored sights did not go up into the air but lent great excitement by displaying right in front of us.  Everyone agreed it was the best firework they had ever seen.
 
Two
My mother watched the fireworks from behind the glass front door of my uncle’s house.  She has always disliked the loud noises and smells of gunpowder on the holidays.  Ellie May joined her inside as well, but they did enjoy the sights from the reassuring distance my uncle’s house provided.  Earlier that day she had taken myself and my sister Sara aside and had the long talk with us about our parent’s divorce.  My parent’s 29th anniversary would have been July 4th, 2004, except they were late in getting to the courthouse all those years ago and were married on July 6th instead.  This lateness in dealing with legal obligations was the hallmark of their 30 years together.  They will be much happier apart.
 
Three
After the fourth, I ended up on a red-eye to the Bahamas, a trip scheduled as part of my work.  This would have been much more enjoyable if I hadn’t spent the previous 36 hours entertaining my fianc√© and family.  At 2 am in the Atlanta airport, I call my father.  By 11 am I find myself in the British Colonial Hilton, where kind hotel staff let me into my room early because I am so exhausted.  Surrounded by marble and expensive furnishings, overlooking the bright blue Caribbean, I sleep.  When I awake, I find I am missing a crucial computer part, which I chase until later in the evening when I attend a reception where I meet many lawyers and two attorneys general.  There are a great deal of free drinks but little food, and after an hour and a half I escape back to the hotel where I spend the rest of the night working on my presentation for the next day.  I leave the Bahamas immediately after my obligations are done.  No swimming.  No sand and saltwater.  My dry bathing suit gave me the evil eye as I unpacked the next day, returning to sleep off travel at 3 in the morning.  Audrey took me in again as I fell exhausted into the spare room futon. 
  
Four
My sisters both end up at my uncle’s house the next day, which I took off from work.  Abby, as the youngest, is most affected by our parent’s divorce.  I try to stay close to her, to spend time with her, but I too often find myself at a loss for the right words.  I was never eleven.  When I was eleven, I was really fifteen, reading book after book without pause, the summer between fifth and sixth grade- well, I was younger than her.  I went to 4-H camp, learned leather stamping and to shoot better with a rifle and bow.  But that was just two weeks out of many.  The rest of the summer when I was Abby’s age was spent with E. Nesbit, Charles Dickens, Judy Bloom, and Isaac Asimov.   I do not know how to talk to an eleven year old, because I never talked to other eleven year olds when I was that age myself.  When I was eleven, my Grandmother took me to the pool a lot, and museums and historical houses.  Abby does that with my Grandmother now, but they do not get along as well as she and I did.  Grandma is older, and Abby is less interested in architecture and local history than I was.
 
Five
My sixteen year old sister has found the most massive blackberry patch behind my uncle’s house.  Sara declares that heaven is a blackberry patch without the pickers or pests.  Heaven is a blackberry patch where you can pick all day and there are no snakes or bears or biting flies or mosquitoes.  The bushes will have no thorns.  I am not inclined to disagree with her.  The blackberries behind my uncle’s house are not there by accident; years ago he and my grandfather tore the beginnings of the bushes out from Grandpa’s old business, and Doug chucked them in holes back behind his property line in the woods.  Then he forgot about them for a few years, and they grew into thickets so ripe and full of berries that Sara and I have to use machetes to get to some of them, and we pick for two hours.  We pick so many berries that juice runs out the bottom of our gallon zip lock bags, berries at the bottom pressed from the weight of berries at the top.   Sara makes a cobbler and Abby makes a cobbler and there are still berries left over, dark and soft and sweet, eaten at my aunt’s table with vanilla ice cream, my sisters, my cousins, my aunt and uncle.
 
Six
Tony and Andrew and Sara and I hang out downtown on a Saturday.  The meeting is too short to be satisfying, but it is good to see them again.  I miss them, and things are different somehow since The Republican and I have announced our engagement. All of us look healthier than we’ve been for awhile, but Andrew comments on how happy Sara looks.  Sara stays with me for one more week before my uncle drives her and Abby back to Nashville.  We debate on her leaving.  Once she is gone my apartment feels strangely foreign to me, and her unattended art supplies leave unfinished work lying about.  I can’t complete my sister’s paintings for her.  There are things she must do for herself.  Still, it was nice having her around to go to films and art stores with.  It is nice to be friends with her as well as sisters.  I hope Abby and I are this way eventually as well.  A week after their visit, Tony and Andrew consent to being the legal witnesses on my marriage certificate.
 
Seven
Bunny Psycho Kitty looks out from underneath my bed every day when I come home now.  She has come to live with me again, unable once more to cope with my aunt’s toddlers or outdoor living.  It will take her almost a week to gain good indoor toilet habits again.  Bunny needs time, her own space, her own litter box and bowls. Titania is undeniably pissed at me for bringing another cat home, and cuddles with me no more than she has to, even when I buy her a toy squirrel stuffed with catnip.
 
Eight
I have to call Underdown and apologize Saturday because The Republican and I were sickeningly sweet the night before.  He and I went to a party with Underdown and other friends, and we did not pay enough attention to other people.  We are the couple everyone hates.  Even I can’t stand us.  We’re a collection of heavy sighs and barely-hidden make out touches.  I don’t want to be that way, but it’s how we are right now.  I maintain the excuse that his skin contains some sort of addictive, mind altering drug, and that I must have contact with it as much as possible right now.  He maintains that I am pretty.  I maintain that he is insane.  Before marrying, we must 1) consult the lawyer people 2) finish our marriage counseling book and 3) get a license.  I leave him at home Saturday night, and we go to separate parties so that we don’t gross more of our friends out than is absolutely necessary.

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