On the fourth of July, we packed up and headed out of town to spend the holiday with our friends Wendy and Andy on their farm. We knew it was going to be a great day. We arrived an hour or so later, after about thirty combined miles of interstate and state highway and country roads, passing grazing horses in pastures and fields of waist-high corn.
We arrived just after lunch. Their new golden retriever puppy, Mabel, greeted us, and as we peeled out of our now-dusty minivan loaded down with bikes, squirt guns, frisbees, and potato salad, Nelly was over the moon to realize she had a playmate.
The barn was already set up for festivities later in the day; there were deep buckets filled with ice and an array of beverages chilling. The kitchen was brimming with food ready to be set out.
The farm abuts a river. We put on our bathing suits, drove a mile down a dirt road, and then navigated the hot sand to the water’s edge. The kids immediately plunged into the chilly water, most of it not quite waist high on anybody, though they warned us about the danger where the current picks up at the bend. Nelly waded out to her neck. She doesn’t swim, no matter how hot it gets. I don't know if she can. Eventually, we all joined the kids in the water. The heat was blistering.
Over the afternoon, a haze developed, then cleared. The heat dulled our senses. After the swimming subsided they asked if we wanted to pick blueberries, but we were tired and sun weary, and wanted shade. So we headed back to the barn and drank cold wine, and waited for the air to get cooler.
As the sun began to lower, others began arriving in a steady procession. Wendy made a salad with red leaf lettuce and cucumber she’d picked on the way back from the river; Andy started a paella. Then we set out the side dishes everyone brought to share, and filled our plates. We toasted our country, and the bounty we’re surrounded with. As the light faded, the kids set off small firecrackers, their sizzling and popping breaking the vast silence of the countryside. Abbott and Cal each lit sparklers, a first for them, and I was glad to notice a brief flicker of trepidation pass across their faces. Then we all got back a safe distance to watch the big show they’d set up, and the blue-black sky over the fields became saturated with bursts of color. The valley was filled with echoing booms.
After the show, there was a piñata, and then people headed for home. We spent the night at the farm, lulled to sleep by the howling of coyotes in the distance. It was one of the most restful nights of sleep I’ve had in a long time.