It's been seven years since I've been in the USA for the month of July...
Usually I'm in some balmy foreign locale where the 4th passes in a muted, unrecognizable way, too busy am I feasting on new food, language, people, and all manner of cultural hullabaloo to remember to get misty-eyed about my own country's "independence." But this year, I was back in Burlington, Vermont, where I lived for six gloriously transformative years, and where I graduated from college a decade ago (!?!) Together with my best college friends and our respective partners, I joined throngs of Vermonters down at Lake Champlain's waterfront for an hour-long fireworks display whose spastic awesomeness not even the swarms of feathery, mysterious bugs could taint.
After spending the day kayaking and swimming on the lake (loads of fun) and then walking for a couple of miles down the bike path in a warm downpour (also fun), we were freshly showered, fed, and hopeful that the rain would spare our last night of nostalgic good times. We gorged on cotton candy and memories, both sweet and fuzzy and reassuring, and watched the sun go down to the tune of thousands of expectant celebrants. Endlessly entertaining were the 12 year-old boys who seemed veritable authorities on explosives ("this one's called The Secret! ") and the crazy drunk guy who dubbed himself a Bicentennial Soldier and who greeted each new explosion with "Rock-N-Roll!" And even though our bras became bug cemeteries and the rain did eventually catch up to us in a dramatic midnight thunderstorm, I relished the heated fanfare of what is no longer my least favorite holiday (I think St Patrick's Day has always held that title anyway).
We've been in New England now for over two weeks, and though I loved swimming in the icy Atlantic and strolling the quaint streets of Providence, nothing comes close to the resplendent beauty of Vermont. I love the endless fields of bright green grass punctuated with red barns and white steeples, the road-side junk shops and spontaneous covered bridges, the wild orange irises and middle-of-the-night trains blowing through the tiniest of towns.
And I've loved getting to show M my other home, the one I chose for myself when I was 18 years old and desperate for something new, the one that taught me how to bike up hills and eat vegetables and substantiate my opinions and form friendships that have weathered the storms of time and space. If I had to stay in-country this summer, at least I got to come back to Vermont.