I didn’t expect so much from the Fourth of July.
I have been with my mom in NY for the last month. Age is finally taking its toll on my mom and she has been weak and in decline over the past month. When I retired two years ago, it gave me a little peace of mind to know that I would be able to be there for my mom when she needed me. That time has come. And so the days have been quiet.
But tonight sitting on the screened porch, there are fireworks all around me. And no crowds. It’s as if all the people in a radius of a mile who are into fireworks spent wads of money on large piles of explosives, ones so impressive that they light up the sky in different colors and with different effects. Above what I still call the Pepper’s house, there were just about fifteen fireworks that went off in row. I’m sitting here alone. The streets are not full. Stars exploding raining down in silver, purple waterfalls in the sky, bursts of thousands of little stars. And when the sky is dark above the Pepper’s house, the sounds of fireworks are non-stop in other directions, fireworks exploding that I cannot see behind the trees. This is not the Baldwin I grew up in. Then there would have been a crowd of kids in the street with me as we lit sparkles and someone exploded a few firecrackers and a daring cherry bomb. My mom sat with me here for a bit on the porch and then returned to the fireworks broadcast from Brooklyn with the Manhattan skyline behind them.
Earlier in the evening, my mom and I went over to my cousin Clare’s for a small 4th of July celebration with my cousin Gracie and her husband Charlie Bamford, visiting from Belfast. It was a big deal that my mom had the energy to get over there, but she did and we had our happy hour drinks and snacks followed by hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, and broccoli slaw. Happy hours with my cousins have become a regular part of my day, a gift of family that I wasn’t expecting when I headed up the east coast at the end of May.
I thought I’d overlap with Charlie and Gracie just a few days, but now it’s been almost three weeks. They have been here for me with support and good cheer through a couple of tough weeks – time that will transform forever my relationship with them. We talk about our days and catch up on our children’s lives, but there’s been more, so much more, that is awfully hard to put into words and perhaps too private as well. For a week too, we had their son Patrick, once the older cousin running through the sprinkler with his sisters and his younger Georgia cousins Clare and Anne. Now he is grown, and he and his wife Joe were here with two-year old George. As happens when there’s a toddler in your mist, George provided easy amusement for us with our glasses of wine. How easy it is to chuckle over a cute two-year old grabbing potato crisps and cherry tomatoes and handing them out to each of us.
Once again something special has come into my life when I wasn’t expecting it. Thank you, cousins.