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Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence...and Stealing from Small Children

Today is the 4th of July. I’m sure that means something. Independence. Freedom. Gratitude for all we have in the United States of America. The pure luck of being born in a place without all the oppression and complete rule our founding fathers sailed thousands of miles to escape.  Wait...sailed?  They didn't just get on a plane?  No, and they didn't sail on luxury cruise lines, either.  This was a big deal.  They sailed thousands of miles without a GPS or an open bar or on-ship entertainment.  That's how pissed off they were.

And so we celebrate. We gather with friends and family to swim, boat, eat hot dogs, hamburgers, and wait for dark to set off fireworks.

Fireworks. That’s how we celebrate the great sacrifice of many men and women for our independence. We light a small piece of string on fire that causes an explosion that makes a noise and sends a momentary spark of color into the sky, hoping against hope that we don’t set a tree or the house on fire in the process. Hoping that the guy in charge of lighting said string doesn’t get his face blown off.

Do I sound jaded? Sorry.

I enjoy fireworks very much. I think they are pretty. I enjoy listening to the reaction of small children, the reaction of complete wonder and excitement when they see that spark of color in the sky, wondering how daddy made that happen, and can he do it again and again?

Pepsi and I loved little naps.
I rarely go out see fireworks anymore, though. This is a choice. My childhood dog, Pepsi, was terrified of fireworks. Indeed, she was terrified of all things that made noise – thunder, lightening, a car backfiring, an explosion on the television. This has made me a little cynical, and a lot overprotective.

I housesit, and am almost always doing so on holidays, including the 4th of July. I choose to not go anywhere on the night they set off fireworks (rarely on the actual fourth in the town I live in). I prefer to stay and make sure the dogs are not going to go into complete panic meltdown, like Pepsi used to. I would rather make sure they are okay and well taken care of. Luckily, I can usually see them from where I am staying, either in the front or backyard.

As usual, I am housesitting on this holiday. I have three Yorkies in my care, and my dog, Spencer Bean, is with me. Last night was the fireworks show. Once I felt comfortable that all the dogs were okay with the noise that was happening outside, I took them to the backyard to watch. As they were running around playing as if nothing was happening above us to the west, I began to think of Pepsi. I always think of her on occasions like this, even in thunderstorms. It is a weird feeling of loss, sadness, happiness, and gratitude that is hard to define.

My Spencer Bean
As I was sitting on the step looking up, thinking of the dog that was such a part of my life, my own dog, Spencer Bean, stopped running to come over and sit next to me. He didn’t announce his presence, didn’t make a big “I’m a beagle and here I am!!!” entrance. He simply walked over and sat down to my left. He sat there looking up at the fireworks with me, and didn’t move until I got up.

This was the most incredible experience. As I watched him out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that from time to time he would turn his head toward me, and then back up at the sky. He knew, as dogs do, that I was feeling something. And he did, as dogs tend to do, take care of me by standing beside me.

A friend, who knows about this, called me a little while later to see how I was doing.

There is something to celebrate. Freedom and love. Gratitude and hope. And the knowledge that all our friends, even the furry ones, are here to protect and love us, and we them. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones today and everyday.

Maybe I’m not so jaded after all…

Oh, and one more thing.  I overheard the most wonderful thing from a child's mouth. A neighbor kid, who, from the sound of her voice, I would guess to be about four, said with all the excitement her little body could handle:
"Daddy! What's that word you say when something is so pretty it makes you happy all over?"
Her dad responded, "The word is cool."
And she yelled back, in a voice that led me to believe she was about fall face forward into the pavement from excitement, "YES! COOL! I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT WORD!!!"

Ladies and gentelmen, a future writer lives next door to where I am housesitting.  Don't you just love that description?  " pretty it makes you happy all over"  I hope she remembers that and puts it in a book someday.  Truth be told, I hope to beat her to it.  I love it.  I just stole from a child.