Seems like we have a very tight knit family here.
I guess I didn't quite realize how close we were or how many family activities we shared.
Now that every two weeks or so goes by and we hit another milepost in our grief, I realize I took a lot for granted.
Our family has always celebrated 4th of July with friends. When we moved here we invited our first farm helpers to bring their young friends out and we grilled burgers, made icecream and shot off fireworks. Each year the crowd would be oddly similar, with church friends, old farm interns, homeschoolers, fellow farmers, milk and bread customers, neighbors and random strangers who would inevitably show up.
The bounty from the potluck would always weigh down the table. Children and big kids would run and scream on the yard, chasing and catching, carrying and tumbling. Meaningful conversations would take place on the deck, on the front porch, on walks in the pastures, under the willow tree. Dog would hide in the bathtub and as the sun set, the fireworks would be gathered up and Philip and others would manage to set them off.
The diversity of the crowd, the mellow air, the joyful spirit, the giant American flag all created the perfect image of our country. Philip would be silly, pretending to auction off the many cars and minivans lined up by the barn. He would then create an elaborately choreographed dance with sparklers, each year more outrageous than the last. We would clap and laugh until the tears rolled and he ate up every drop of the audience's appreciation.
After his performance the little children and the young adults would then line up to grab their lit sparklers and like the fireflies, or rather, like a troupe of electrified fairies, they would leap and fly around the front yard, way too late for the little ones and the older ones, but fly they would, anyway.
This 4th of July I didn't invite friends. I let them call and just the right ones showed up. Even so, the cars lined the driveway, we used stacks and stacks of plates were filled and refilled with a weighted down table filled with the most amazing of locally grown gourmet treats. A Texas BBQ brisket from our farm along with one of our legs of lamb, roasted with rosemary and garlic and dijon. The BBQ was for me to have a taste of home comfort food. Of course we made our traditional salt potatoes, thanks to Dawn for the recipe. There was couscous with veggies, pasta salad, red pepper salad, homemade goat cheese, the most amazing stuffed sunburst squash, thanks to our farmer's market neighbor's recipe, roasted summer veggies, and who knows what else.
Then we ate homemade icecream and cake and apple crisp.
As we gave thanks for the blessing of our gathering and the food, I remembered Philip.
No one minded.
We remembered how lively Philip made our gatherings. How his absence is felt deeply. The kids and I gave thanks to our friends who have blessed us with their help, their money, their food, their stuff, most of all their love and prayers.
As we ate, we were able to share stories and laugh and enjoy one another. Then Serge engaged the potato cannon and oversaw the fireworks display. Thomas and James did most of the lighting and we ooohed and aaahed. When it came time for Philip to do his dance, I cried. And was happy to watch the little ones and the big ones flit like fairies across the front lawn as I enjoyed the company of former young interns, now real adults, some of them married and even with a baby. Friends cuddled here and there, mamas nursing babies, daddies telling stories, toddlers running in circles, adolescents growing by the minute, all twirling around in our new life, oh so similar, yet everchanging and evolving.
Can you believe that with all those people, all those plates, I didn't even wash a single dish? Those kids (are they still kids? I guess so. That makes me kind of old, doesn't it?) washed every single dish, gathered up every beer bottle, firework paper, sparkler wire and other detritus that seems to appear when you have a gathering of 40 or more people. Some of them camped in tents and we all shared coffee in the morning.