What I did on my summer vacation

The sound of women’s laughter pierces the evening breeze like breaking glass. Children fueled by hot dogs and sugary frozen Slurpee’s run with sparklers through the back yard. Their happy screaming voices like a pendulum, now close, now far away. In the upstairs bathroom I look at my reflection in the mirror and begin to hum “I’m going to wash that gray right out of my hair”. Damn you Miss Clairol, that jingle will be stuck in my head for a week. If you are somewhere near my age, it will be stuck in your head too. You’re welcome. No one likes to suffer alone.

It is the third of July. How quickly Paul’s family, has become my family; the day before the fourth, now our annual Independence Day celebration. Regular time stops long enough for me to understand. This is my life. This is a tradition.

As I walk out of the house and into the back yard, I see Pops giving a geography lesson to my daughter Taylor and her friend Lisa. He is pointing to the wall map of Cape Ann located behind the outdoor bar. There is a knowing and unexpected mature look exchanged between Lisa and Taylor. They are more interested in eighteen year old boys, but will kindly listen to my father-in-law’s story.

While watching the lesson unfold, something my mother-in-law said two weeks ago surfaces in my conscious brain:

“Oh my Gawd, Pops is so conceited. When he gets out of the showa’ he says ‘don’t peek!’”

I have seen my future.

I cannot count how many times I have heard Paul make that same statement while gingerly covering himself. And in terms of lessons, life with Paul is an extended “Jeopardy” episode. “I’ll take Boston history for $100, Alex”. But there is a comfort in knowing what lies around the corner. Just as I know that when it turns dark, we will fill our plastic cups with a “bikini martini” and walk down to the town common.

Most of the town will be there, waiting for flames to engulf a ten story pile of shipping pallets with an outhouse crowning the top. Firemen will spray the area immediately surrounding the kerosene soaked wood to prevent a forest fire. The fire hose will then be turned on the delighted crowd when the flames are licking the sky and red hot embers are raining down. Just to clarify, this is not my birth state of North Carolina, but Ashby, Massachusetts. Watching the crowd’s thrilled reaction, I am reminded of a joke. What are a redneck’s last words? Answer: “Hey ya’ll, watch this!”

The next day we leave the small town for Boston. Our plans mirror last years: watching fireworks with thousands along
 the Charles. Unable to face the crowds, at the last minute, I text my friend Sam and ask if we can see the fireworks from his rooftop deck. When Taylor and Lisa emerge from our Boston condo bathroom, they have grown four inches taller and five years older. “Wedge” sandals are in and these girls are now young women.

As we pass the “Frat house” on our way to the T stop, I catch a young shirtless frat boy looking like an eagle on the upper deck eyeing his approaching prey.

“You should be glad your fah-thuh’s are with you, otherwise I’d say a lot more. You’re lucky men” He shouts.

Paul is retelling the story on Sam’s roof deck when he turns to me and asks “How come the frat boys never notice us like that?” But I am too busy thinking about how my gray hair has given me away as a father. And in what universe would a father be lucky that his daughters were knock outs?

But then I look at the 360 degree view surrounding me. There are fireworks filling the night time sky from the south shore to the north shore.  “Boom!” the fireworks over the Charles explode in the night time sky framed by the Boston skyline before us. I feel like a child. Maybe I don’t know what’s around every corner. But I know who will be with me.

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