I sit outside in the dark on my balcony, listening to the distant boom of the Macy’s Fireworks over the Hudson. I have a nice view straight down River Road. The air is furnace-like but I don’t sweat. I leave the AC on while I’m out here with the window open…let it run. I breathe in deeply the cigar smoke of a neighbor. Did I do this last year, remembering? I have no recollection of last year. But two years ago, I couldn’t get Audrey to sleep and it was my first time even stepping onto the balcony which we hadn’t used at all back then…she and I watched them in the heat…her calling out “Boo! Boo!” because she wanted more blue ones. Tonight feels exactly the same…except she fell asleep because she has croup and it’s been a rough couple of nights. She’ll be disappointed tomorrow when she realizes she missed them.
It’s funny- July 5 two years ago our building had a fire alarm in the middle of the night. I grabbed Audrey and headed down the five flights of stairs. As soon as we started down she thought she saw you- you’d only been gone for six days. “Appa!” she kept calling out and I explained that was someone else. Well, today, out of nowhere on the elevator upstairs after picking up her prescription and a trip to the Dr., she said, “Remember that time I thought I saw appa going down the stairs?” I tell my sil who I chat with earlier- we must feel it in our bones- the spiral. It comes around again.
I was ill-prepared this year for these feelings because one felt bigger than two. Because there was a big plan and lots of people around last year.
I decide July 4th is my least favorite holiday. It’s one of the smaller ones like Memorial Day where we have no plans usually- where people keep telling me to have a great fourth, and I feel the buzz and energy of people shopping for barbecues and going about their busy business. To me all it is a precursor- of this life I now know.
All it is is the day Audrey and I went to church and I dressed her in that blue and white dress you picked out for Easter- and I tied a piece of red ribbon around her hair clip- the Sunday school teacher took a small polaroid of us…all it is is the trip we took to Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, the one where she found Petey the Parrot in the bread section and got a red lollipop out of it. All of which I planned to share with you through photos when you returned. And it’s that heat at night…that “Boo! Boo!” And it’s mostly- a two day window when you are still alive. A countdown to the moments when I could still prevent this from happening.
I try to think about our last fourth of July together- we spent many of them- ten? I realize you were away for 2009 on the first trip to England…and away again, two days before your death- somewhere in the Italian countryside while we watched the fireworks, writing me the next day, “I wish I could’ve been there to watch the fireworks with you both. Did she like them?” Yes, she did. I haven’t gotten to reply. So the last time was 2008- when I was pregnant…all I remember is a very passionate evening of arguments and me walking to the pier by myself in Bay Ridge Brooklyn- with an umbrella? Calling you- you coming? Finally- the two of us, standing under umbrellas…waiting with lots of other people. And then the tension of the evening breaks when we finally see the fireworks- they are absolutely miniscule- miniature- you have to strain to see them really- like a joke from where we are- and yet there are hundreds gathered and waiting in the rain. We both think this is so funny. This is what I remember.
Funny how when it comes down to it- it’s our senses we recall- that is what we’re left with…loud fire alarms, the heat of a summer night radiating from your skin, falling rain and the smell of the pier in South Brooklyn. I miss you. Please know.