I am a holiday person. I love holidays. I would say I don’t play favorites, but I totally do. I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas the most, but the Fourth of July is a close third.
Tony was… not a holiday person. He and I were opposites in that regard. I anticipate holidays, love preparing for them, and relish them when they’re here. Tony I think feared anticipating anything. During the time we were together, that was always a conflict between us. I wanted to watch the Macy’s parade and cook a turkey. He wanted to have something non-Thanksgiving-y and skip the parade. We did end up watching it, and the National Dog Show, but I did it eagerly. He did it because they were on. I guess in that sense he accommodated me, but a lot of the time I felt that my excitement and anticipation made him anxious. I always wondered why, and I’m not sure that Tony even knew. I think now that it had to do with his general worldview. The world was scary to him. If he anticipated or looked forward to something good, something bad would happen to undo it, or prevent it.
Our first Fourth of July together was in 2003. It was also his father’s birthday – his father, who died in 2002. Tony and I watched the fireworks in Boston on the 3rd – the Harborfest fireworks – from the roof deck of my apartment in the North End. The next day he went to have lunch with his mom and sister, and then later I took the train to Dedham and met them for the first time. So tomorrow, it’s ten years since I met Mary Ann, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law. It was broiling hot that day and Tony’s mom took us out for ice cream.
We moved to San Diego in late October of that same year. Every year after that, I told Tony that I wanted to go see fireworks. Every year there was some reason he didn’t want to go – usually some variation of the crowds, the heat, having to park the car amid the crowds, etc. I don’t think that his intention was to ruin my holiday, but every year I was bummed out. It’s not that I enjoy crowds. It’s not that I feel that fireworks are essential to my joy. What it is, though, is that I have such fond memories of going to annual Fourth of July parties in Plymouth. Our friends had a house right on the parade route, so we would go down early in the morning before they closed the streets, bearing a pot of my mom’s famous chili and other food for the day. We would eat breakfast there, watch the parade. Play games and talk and grill lunch; and play more games and play with the dog, and get sunburned. Grill dinner, and then walk over in the mosquito-heavy dusk to sit on Indian Hill, listen to the Plymouth Philharmonic, and watch the fireworks explode over the Mayflower. Then we would walk sleepily back to the house, and wait for the traffic to clear a bit, and then get into the car for the drive back to Weymouth.
I loved it. I loved it every single year. All I wanted was to recreate some small part of that feeling with my husband. The closest I ever came to that, the one thing that he allowed himself to anticipate, was that we got into a tradition of going to Bristol Farms the day before a holiday and buying muffins for breakfast. Tony hardly ever indulged in anything sweet, so getting him to agree to such a thing felt like a victory – and not that I had won, that HE had won, over himself. He would get blueberry, usually, or sometimes cranberry. His eyes always lit up when he ate his holiday treat.
Tomorrow, I will celebrate my first Fourth of July – my first Independence Day – without Tony. I live in a small town now, but they have a parade and a fireworks display. I haven’t decided about the parade yet, but I will be seeing fireworks this year. I wish that Tony had been able to feel the joy that I felt on holidays. I don’t know if I can describe my feelings as joyous this year – that seems like a stretch – yet I feel that I can best honor him by trying to reclaim something from my past. By watching the fireworks, oohing and aahing with the crowd, and hoping that somehow, he knows now that it’s okay to feel joy, set dread aside, and watch flowers bloom in the night sky.