July 2, 2010

Flash Bang

"Together we understood what terror was [...]
And it's not a movie and you aren't a hero
and all you can do is whimper and wait. "
Tim O'Brien (The Things They Carried)

It is July. My due date is the 27th- monumental, of course, but mostly to Sky and I. I think back to what July meant last year, though- on the 28th, my then-boyfriend and my brother came back from Afghanistan. There's quite a good chance that my daughter could be born on the one year anniversary of their return.

Last year was strange for me. I was not the girl who showed up in a red, white, and blue bombshell dress to their homecoming, little flags painted on my cheeks. I was not the girl who paid attention to the National Anthem that day, or the words of higher up soldiers and officials who thanked them for their service. It all seemed slightly staged and impersonal, and definitely not good enough. Those were my guys, I felt like yelling. Don't you understand that they aren't a part of the group of men standing at attention, nondescript and identical in their uniforms? I see their name tapes, their faces. I wrote them for a year. I missed them. I loved them. I felt just as much away from home as they did, because they are home.

On the Fourth of July last year (which happens to be my brother's birthday as well), I sat on the lawn of a large park with my brother's baby girl who he'd only seen once, his girlfriend, and my best friend. We laid back on the grass in the dark. I couldn't watch the fireworks in quite the same way that time.

They were lovely, like they are every year, no matter which city I watch them in- fireworks are some of my most favorite things. I love the smell of the colored smoke rising up, the loud snaps and bangs, and the excitement and slight unpredictability. But my brother wasn't there for his birthday, and my boyfriend wasn't there whispering romantic things and holding my hand from beginning to end. There was something a little flat to it all.

That is why I am looking forward to Sunday. We already had an impromptu backyard fireworks display with my family- a broken down car of my brother's ended up getting the whole family together at my dad's house last night. We ended up lighting off all sorts of 'small' fireworks; sparklers and morning glories (childhood favorites), Roman candles and bottle rockets. I heard my brother remark, "There's nothing like this smell." I silently smiled and agreed. I'm glad we had that together even though I won't be in town for his birthday. And I'm glad that I'll have a chance at the under-the-glittery showers romance I craved when Sky and I head to Flora for his family reunion and the local fireworks that will follow.

I'm not overly, fanatically proud of this country, but I am proud of those two boys, and I am ever thankful that they are home for the 4th.

One final thought, from someone who spelled it out for me better than I can write:
"I don't think even my country means all that much. There are many countries in our blood, aren't there, but only one person. Would the world be in the mess it is if we were loyal to love and not to countries?"

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