Discovery and Rediscovery: Notes on the Best 4th of July Ever!

Here is a partial list of my activities over the 4th of July weekend, 2011:

  • Reunions with high school and college friends and their families.
  • Airshow, fireworks, and sparklers with various combinations of children and adults from the above.
  • 64 miles of bikeriding on unpaved trails.
  • A family reunion in rural Maquoketa, IA.

And here are some of the things I discovered or rediscovered over the three day weekend:

Discovery: Any place, including an apartment in an assisted-living retirement facility, can feel like home if the right people are assembled there.

Rediscovery: The joy of singing. Most especially songs originally written and/or performed by John Denver. With friends and guitar accompaniment. When no one cares whether you can carry the tune, hit the notes, find your range.

Discovery: That the happiness of reunions can be enhanced by including people who weren’t part of the original group. Betts, Mary’s partner; Ruth, Sheila’s 88 year old fireball of a mother; my dear friend Sue, who brought Lori whom none of us knew…not to mention the children of those we remember as (almost) children themselves!

Rediscovery: Dubuque’s Eagle Point Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve spent time. It would hold up by comparison to many much more famous spots. Some very special memories, from early childhood through Saturday’s air show and picnic, reside there.

Discovery: Turning 50 doesn’t feel that strange when the friends surrounding you are that old, too!

Rediscovery:  A group of cousins may be able to laugh harder and have more fun than just about any other grouping of people.

Discovery: A family reunion full of people you are completely unrelated to can be very fun – especially when the family that invited you is uniformly warm and welcoming, whether they’re meeting you for the first time or the first time in 30 years.

It all started with a vague plan that a bunch of us would get together for parts of the weekend. Then, as the date approached, and plans became more concrete, I spent a moment or two wondering just how the groups and various events would work – would the people gel or would there be uncomfortable silences and people making every effort to maintain distance from those they didn’t know? I needn’t have spent one moment worrying. After all, at the core of the plan: friendships which have endured in spite of years and distance. Branching out from that core, were some of the people these friends love best in the world. Each event and permutation of the group worked. How could it have gone otherwise?!

Surprisingly, it was one of the teenage boys (initially dragged along against his will, I’m told) who declared, late on Monday night, that this was the “best 4th of July EVER!” And it was.