It’s the 4th of July. It’s nine P.M. and I’m in bed.
I have always loved the 4th of July fireworks because my mom loved fireworks. She loved the light and colors, the weeping willows and the shiny sparkles. She always tried to predict when the grand finale was starting.
She thought that fireworks had a magical way of bringing the people of this country together, despite our political and social differences. The 4th of July sparks proud patriotism, a hopeful spirit and reminds us that freedom is something to celebrate and be thankful for. Fireworks bring back childhood wonder and the belief that anything is possible. Staring at the starry sky, we’re not worrying about our bills or our health, we’re enjoying an American past-time that’s still popular today.
However, on July 4th, 2012, my mom refused to watch the fireworks. She had brain tumor removal surgery scheduled for the 5th. The night prior to her surgery, my husband and I watched the fireworks on a large, empty, perfectly manicured lawn a block up the street from my parents’ house. As the night sky ignited, I cried on my husband’s shoulder, worried over the fate of my mom’s life.
Nine months later she died. And two years after that, I had a baby.
So now I’m eight weeks postpartum and missing the fireworks for the first time. My friends have walked down to the field. I’m lying in bed, in darkness, and all is quiet except for the low hum of nursery noises— Sleep Sheep “ocean” and Nuk “womb” are simultaneously flooding the baby monitor.
When the powerful thundering of fireworks begins, I lie stiff, wondering if these loud, foreign sounds will wake up the baby I just worked so hard to put down for the past hour— This baby that I birthed from my body two months earlier and yet I still don’t understand at all. I stay unnecessarily still, as if my frozen state will keep the strange, tiny being across the room asleep and unperturbed by outside noises.
All at once, I feel sad and guilty for missing the fun as well as tired and happy to be in bed. I’m glad I dodged the crowds, the possible meltdown and the decision of infant ear plugs or no?
And while I know I should be sleeping when my baby sleeps, I can’t stop thinking about how Mom loved the fireworks. And how if she were here now, she would tell me it’s normal to feel the way I feel about my new life and it’s okay to miss the fireworks just this once. I think she’d also encourage me to go out and make as many memories as possible with my new little guy once I’m feeling up to it. And not to be scared of parenthood and to trust my instincts and live life to the fullest because it can and will change in an instant.
My baby is startled by a string of loud cracks that seem to be going off directly outside of his window. He’s up. Again.
So I hold him, tell him I love him and vow to tell him those three words every day.
We are getting to know each other little by little. One day soon, he’ll watch the fireworks and he’ll know that his mom loves the fireworks, just like her mother did too.