Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Un-Fourth of July

I decided to wait until the entire day was over before posting my thoughts on this Independence Day. I kept thinking maybe something exciting would happen. This July 4 really didn't feel like July 4 at all. For one thing, it rained most of the day, and was cool and dreary. It felt more like Labor Day. Erin is out of town, Caitlin is out of the country, Kelly was vegging at her apartment, and Mary was packing to go to camp on Sunday. We didn't go to Ed's brother's place in Michigan or his other brother's place in the Dunes. We just stayed home.

Ed and I were remembering the way we spent many Independence Days. From the time the girls were very small we typically would go to his brother's place in northern Indiana on Lake Michigan (Ogden Dunes). We'd walk to the beach and spend most of the day there. The first year with children, Caitlin would have only been six months old, the next year I would have had 18 month old Caitlin plus a five week old Kelly. Physically I was exhausted, handling a toddler and being the nursing mother of an infant. Ed was there of course, but babies have such a physical need for their mother. I spent more time at the house than on the beach those two years.

After the day at the beach, we'd walk back to the house and have a cookout and all the other chaos/fun that goes along with such a big family. Ed is one of seven siblings, plus a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins live in the "region" so it just goes with the territory. So you can imagine...sand everywhere, sunburns, food on the grill, yard games, fireworks not only in the yard, but back at the beach, and of course....mosquitoes. Mosquitoes in the area of Lake Michigan seem far worse than the ones in central Indiana.

While these were amazingly fun times and we made a lot of memories, I also haven't forgotten how exhausted I was as a mother. Before we were finished, we added two more daughters, and if anyone has experienced more than two children, you know it suddenly becomes exponential. Three or four children feel more like six or eight children. Just the thought of how we packed, prepared food to contribute, and got together all the things you need when you have young children....well, it tires me to think about it. Of course we were all having our families at the time, so there were kids and babies everywhere.

Sometimes my now nearly grown daughters say "Mom, I don't know how you did it." When I think about it, neither do I. I guess that's because I have the memories, but I'm remembering in the context of now being 53 and I can't imagine doing it now. I usually tell the girls, "I just did what I needed to do," and I think that's the way it is for a mother. You love them beyond words. Instinct kicks in.

Being in the middle generation of three generations, I'm also aware of how my mother and mother-in-law seem to have forgotten all about the hard work. My mother-in-law in particular will frequently comment about the fact that I am always doing something (she's talking about now, not when I was busy with babies) and that I never sit down. When she says this I find it perplexing because I'm not doing anything stupendous. I'm usually filling the dishwasher, making a simple meal, etc., but to her it seems like a lot. My goodness, she raised seven children, without modern conveniences. I guess it's all relative. I'm just hoping I avoid feeling that way for as long as I can. I'd rather be 80 something and still active with my memory intact.

For now I remember fondly all the fun, and while looking at pictures of the girls when they were little makes me melancholy, I also remember the sheer physical exhaustion that goes along with being a mother. I remember it both ways, and that helps me to not be sad about my girls growing up because there are good things about it. We have so much fun together now, they affirm to me each and every day that I did a good job, and the most of the exhausting times are over. It is extremely rewarding to watch them develop into women and there is a real sense of pride thinking I had something to do with who they are.

So this year it was the Un-Fourth of July. About the most exciting thing that happened was comforting one of my dogs when she was hiding from the fireworks under the bed. I've decided that's really okay.


  1. You forgot to mention the excitement of living right NEXT door to a certified (and certifiable) Fourth of July PYROMANIC… even now I can recall the smell of sulfur burning up the grass in your yard.

  2. So true Marty...I was trying to focus on our trips up north to Ed's brother's place...there are even more memories when we didn't go up north, or when the 4th didn't fall on the weekend so we were up there either before or after the actually holiday. That would be a great topic...maybe I'll save it for the next July 4. So funny! I sure miss you all.