Saturday morning, Andrea and I sat on our front lawn, sipping coffee and watching an endless stream of cars squeeze through the main road into the center of the annual neighborhood yard sale. People from all walks of life and all nationalities were turning one person’s trash into another person’s treasure. Families rode their bikes around going from yard to yard checking things out. Old men haggled, quibbled and groaned over the price of lawn mowers that were on their last breaths. Kids pulled around a Red Flyer wagon loaded up with coolers full of refreshments in a capitalistic venture to quench bargain shopper’s thirst. Neighbors wander over to their neighbors’ houses and talked and laughed about the “madness” that swirled around, enjoying the chaos. Up and down the streets, the stars and stripes shone brightly in the perfect morning sun.
And Andrea and I took it all in, with our boys talking us out of selling some of their toys and then disappearing into the yard or house with their newly re-found old treasure. And we were content in our small American town.
After a hearty steak dinner and a trip to the store to figure out something to buy for the whole family with our day’s earnings, we came home and sat in our back yard and watched the kids play with trucks (that had survived the purge) in the sandbox. We sat in our Adirondack chairs, Andrea drinking wine as I sipped some scotch and we watched as the twilight settled heavily around us, not wanting to let go of the day. We talked of plans for the house and for vacations and marveled at our kids. Bedtime for the boys fell to the side and we enjoyed the cool summer evening in the yard and safety of our American home.
We spent Sunday morning going through the newspaper, giving in to the lazy embrace of a rainy summer morning. The boys stayed in their pajamas way past noon, alternating between the computer, the television and wrestling, the toys they pleaded clemency for the day before, already forgotten. Finally, I slipped out on my Cannondale bike and road off into the rolling hills of our valley. In one mile I’d roll past acres and acres of farmland and then in the very next mile, I rolled past an ultra-modern shopping center with the trendiest stores and restaurants. In the next mile, I rolled past a golf course where only the most wealthy people played and a couple miles later I went past a course that was open to all and I watched a man with his five year son walking up to a tee. I rolled past tall piles of chopped wood, abandoned warehouses and a massive corporate campus barely five years. There were new developments built next to old farm houses across the street from condominiums and horse stables. I past two Roman Catholic Churches, a Ukrainian Church, a Moravian Church and, of course, I mentioned the golf courses. There were baseball diamonds and soccer fields and other cyclist that waved as we passed each other. And that was just 10 miles through an American countryside.
I got home and while Andrea went out for a run, I sat and watched the Penguins of Madagascar with the boys as we ate marshmallows and graham crackers (remnants from the unfulfilled dreams of s’mores) before I got them dressed and ready to go. Andrea got home, got showered and dressed and we sat on the back patio (covered) and watched a summer storm roll through, feeling an oppressive heat give way to a cool breeze. We got in the car and drove to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs to take in a game. We walked around the stadium as the boys asked for everything we passed until we got to the store. Benjamin asked about the Marines walking around and the giant Howitzer (I can only assume that is what it was, or, at the very least, a “grandson” of the Howitzer) and I explained to him how our country was born on the Fourth of July and how the Marines, Army, Air force and Navy helped make that happen and have protected it every day since.
Given the green-light to pick out hats, Matthew grabbed the fourth one he saw while Ben passed on every one he saw explaining that he didn’t see the “American” one that we passed near where they cooked the food. Finally, we found his hat Ia red and white hat with the teams logo colored with stars and stripes) and then we all helped mommy pick out a t-shirt.
We headed back to our seats, in a suite granted to us by my company. We ate hot dogs and popcorn and Andrea and I enjoyed our beers. We shared the suite with an Indian coworker and his family and another coworker whose wife spoke with a European accent. And together, we watched America’s Pastime and the boys shouted with happiness at doing the wave. Matthew and Ben eagerly explored the U.S. via Google Maps on my phone and asked questions about mountains and lakes and oceans of Colorado (I had some explaining to do). They asked if it was time for fireworks and which team had more “points” and how much longer until it was time for fireworks and, more importantly, cotton candy. And we all cheered when the last out came in this very American game.
Two guys stood in the middle of the field as fans tried to throw tennis balls into the buckets they were holding. The crowd roared with each close call and the yellow balls rained down in waves. We watched and laughed and relaxed as we waited for the fireworks. Benjamin showed us how to dance the “Chicken” and Matthew showed us how to look cool with 3D glasses on (for the 3D Fireworks Spectacular). Ben and I took pictures of the field and his hat and of Matthew and mommy with my phone until, finally, the fireworks started.
And tears came to my eyes as songs like “Born in the USA” and “God Bless America” pumped through the speakers in the stadium and the fireworks lit up the sky. Movies and television always overplay that all-American scene of families watching fireworks at the beach or on a lake or in a park or in a city, and it becomes a cheesy cliche…or so I thought. I’ve never particularly liked fireworks, but there I sat, as happy as I have ever been in my life, with my beautiful wife and my wonderful little boys listening to cheesy songs and fireworks. The looks on the boys faces as they watched and cheered will last forever in my mind. As hokey as this may sound, never before in my life had the meaning of the American dream been so clear and so grand in my eyes. And it wasn’t just that moment. It was the culmination of a weekend full of moments…Simply moments and little joys. Even if it were just us sitting in our backyard watching fireflies with the rest of the world in the dark, I’d still feel blessed for the fulfillment of a wonderful American dream that I had never even dared to imagine before.
We walked out to the car as Matthew excitedly talked about how the fireworks went “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop” near the end and slowly made our way out of the parking lot. Benjamin asked about our country and what states were, not believing that we could possibly have prairies, deserts, mountains AND two oceans. Andrea told him how lucky we are to live in a country that had all that.
Finally, Matthew slipped off to sleep and Benjamin said, “We lost the little fireworks dude!”
After a few more minutes, Benjamin stated what I think we were all feeling (but what Matthew was unable to fight), “I wish this day would never end.” Of course, it must, and already has. However, I can’t help but feel so truly blessed by God for the life I have in this wonderful country of ours. It was a Fourth of July weekend, living the dream in every seemingly mundane moment that together makes for a great life. And I am so very thankful for that.