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.
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.
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.