Saturday, July 14, 2012


Independence Day was a special day when I was younger, not quite right up there with Christmas and my birthday but pretty close. There were fireworks and barbeques and time with family and friends. July fourth was a good family friend's birthday and even if I didn't spend the day with him, there was always excitement around the day. When he passed away the day was a reminder of his absence from my life but the day still offered fun and excitement. I usually found myself spending time with my dad and my mom's brother Lanny and his family. I am especially fond of Lanny's family and looked forward to spending the day with them. Then Lanny passed away and his family moved to Nevada. Lanny's grand-daughter is my god-daughter and her birthday happens to be on July third so Z and I usually found ourselves in Reno for her birthday and Independence Day. (Don't worry, I'm not about to say that she passed away as well.) The complications of life got in the way and we stopped being able to spend the days with her and her family. For a couple of years I managed to gather friends together for river barbeques, but even that eventually sizzled out as people got other annual obligations. As with everything else I had my father to fall back on, and I often did attach Z and myself to his plans but alas he too passed away.

The fourth of July became a sad day for me, a reminder of fun times in the years past without any real offer of present or future fun. We have a couple standing offers to watch fireworks but none of them are things that work easily and happily for our little family. I spent a couple of years trying and failing to find a new tradition and feeling glum about it when nothing materialized. Last year Miguel and I decided to just leave the house and hope to happen upon something. We were on a mission to find some good barbeque because I at least wanted that part of my holiday tradition. We ended up at a local supermarket that barbequed out front. Once we got the food we realized we didn't really know where to take it. We drove to a neighboring town and ended up on a patch of grass. It wasn't bad, but it felt a little sad and lonely. While we were sitting there Miguel searched for things to do on his phone. He found mention of a county fair, which at least had fireworks.

We drove out there, me all the while feeling skeptical, but it turned out to be wonderful. The county fair was very small, the smallest I've ever seen, but that actually is ideal with Z. He went on a few rides, we walked around, and capped the night with fireworks. It was truly very nice.

This year we decided that we would just head straight to the county fair, since it had worked out so well the year before. I didn't bother trying to dig up any other plans and it made the day that much more enjoyable. Miguel worked in the early afternoon but that turned out for the best since it was a hot day and I think we would have both melted and experienced at least one melt-down had we tried to put in a full day. In other words, there would have been lots of melting all around. As it was we were there almost six hours.
The first thing we did when we got to the fair was put Az on her first carnival ride, a junior version of the Tilt o' Whirl. The four of us smashed in and Az really would rather have been doing a handful of other things. Once the ride got going she loved it though. Much to Z's chagrin we didn't get it anywhere close to its spinning potential, but it was the perfect amount of spinning for a two-year-old's first carnival ride. Unfortunately it turned out to be the only ride Az was tall enough for. Had I known this I would probably have waited a bit to go on it, but it was a fun start to the day nonetheless. Z had a wristband to go on unlimited rides but since Miguel and I were paying per ride the Tilt o' Whirl was both of our sole rides of the day. A couple days later Az was measured at an exam as being 32.5 inches tall. Many of the junior rides had a minimum height restriction of 32 inches so we might have been able to get her onto a few more rides with some coaxing her to stand up tall. She should be solid for next year at least.
Az also got to ride her first pony. When I first bought the ticket (the pony required a separate ticket from all of the other rides, which I bought from the girl standing by the gate and then handed immediately back to her) Az was wary of the animals and not wanting to go near them not one bit. So we left to go look at other things, and ended up on the Tilt 'o Whirl ride where she had a blast. I had promised Z that after the Tilt 'o Whirl we would go watch him do one of his rides but I wanted to take advantage of the rider's high Az was on so I rushed her across the fair back over to the ponies, where I encouraged Miguel to be pushy with the ride attendant and get her onto one of the ponies this go round. He got her onto the last free pony and Az of course had an absolutely wonderful time. When it was time to get off and move on to other things she stayed focused in her attempts to get back over to the ponies. She was very gentle and kind with her animal, petting it and straining to see its face so she could talk to it often. Not surprisingly her interest in My Little Ponies has also increased quite a bit since then.
Z had a very nice time as well. He continues to try out things that were not so long ago out of his comfort zone, which is huge for him. I tried bribing and bullying him into trying out the yo-yo (the swings that turn above the heads of passersby) but they were still a step beyond what he is willing to try. Which is fine, he went on a number of rides that I thought were much "scarier," but a mom is free to be greedy when it comes to milestones right?

On the first ride Z went on he met a boy roughly his own age whom was there with his parents. He wanted someone to go on the rides with and invited Z to hang out with him. I told Z it was fine and started to follow the boy to the attraction he was headed to, the ride that is a jungle of foam and bridges ending in a slide, but Z zipped ahead of him and ran through the entire thing almost before the boy had even entered. This continued in the fun house and every other thing the boy asked Z to join him on. The boy was patient and continued to go on things with Z, despite the fact that Z wasn't actually doing any of it with him. Eventually we broke away to do other things, but I wish I had realized there were a couple of rides that required groups of two because of course Z ended up wanting to go on them. He had the good idea of approaching kids his age whom had wristbands to ask them if they wanted to go on any of the rides with him, but none of them did.

When Z was standing in line for the bumper cars he was behind two boys around his age, and in front of them was a boy who appeared to be maybe seven or eight. Z was his usual outgoing self, talking away at them and trying to get them to laugh, all the while standing much too close to them. He got them to laugh all right, but they were clearly laughing at him. Even the boy who was much younger than Z was joining in on making fun of him, which bothered me much more than the older boys for some reason. I guess I feel like younger boys are supposed to look up to the older boys.  They're supposed to be the ones trying to do the impressing.

I wanted to just stand back and let the scene play out because I can't hover over Z his entire life but he was getting more and more wild, spinning, flapping, jumping, and making loud noises in an attempt to get the boys to laugh. I think Z could sense he was being rejected, and when he feels like he isn't being accepted he starts to get more frantic, and "spin" in an attempt to get his audience back. When Miguel came back from the bathroom I sent him over to discreetly tell Z to cool it a little. Z replied, "They think I'm funny." Miguel told him that they weren't laughing with him, and Z did tone it down a little but it's just not in his nature to just stand there and try to look cool. Z could care less about looking cool.

The encounter was a good reminder of how lucky we are to have found the school Z is currently in. Z would be eaten alive at most junior high schools but at the school he's at he's free to (mostly) be himself. He's not the weird kid, and most of the time when the kids are laughing at him it's because they genuinely think he's funny. I think life would be a lot different (and more difficult) if we hadn't been welcomed into his school community.
This was supposed to just be a photo of Z but then Az ran in to stand next to him and pose. This is something she's begun doing on her own. I have no idea why, but I obviously love it.
Last year Az was happy to ride around in the backpack carrier the entire time, but this year she had places to be and things to explore. She still spent a fair amount of time in the carrier, but she was no fool; there was a carnival to explore!
See? I was there too!
Exploring on foot.
Feeling silly back in the carrier. This appears to be a very sweet photo until you realize that she was actually trying to eat her dad's head, not kiss it.
Az noticed me taking photos of her Eating Daddy's Head antics, stopped to make this face, and then dropped her expression as soon as she heard the camera click. Yep, my barely two-year-old posed for a photo sporting my signature "silly face photo" expression even though I've mostly tucked it into the closet these past couple years. The fourth wall has been broken.
Just as it was getting dark we grabbed some food and headed to the field in anticipation of the firework show. There was a band playing in the interim, a head-bangers meet Boz Scaggs type of band. I didn't really think much of them one way or the other, but Az was transfixed. My little music loving girl thought it was just the coolest thing ever, and it made me realize we haven't been to any concert in the park type of things since she has been old enough to be aware of her environment. Obviously I'm going to have to change that soon. Even after the fireworks show, it was the live music that had her talking.
Which isn't to say she didn't enjoy the fireworks. That was pretty cool too.

I still miss the extended family and friend aspect that the holiday used to have for me. If I'm being completely honest I don't look forward to the day anywhere close to as much as I used to, but I don't dread it either. Until we find a new tradition that does involve family and friends and barbeques the county fair will do as a very lovely placeholder. And honestly, I bet when my own kids look back on these years and their Independence Day memories they'll feel like their present celebrations aren't nearly as special. It's the way of these things.

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