Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Celebrating Summer

Early in June,  a dear friend invited me to her home to celebrate the awarding of tenure to a mutual dear friend of ours.  It seemed so good to be there among some of the great people who teach in the education department at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) as we joined together to toast a friend and colleague whose hard work and dedication was rewarded with tenure.  In many ways, it was a simple coming together of people I admire greatly, but it also seemed to mark an occasion when I finally felt like I was again doing the things I had always done before my daughter's death last spring.  I even remarked to my dear friend who was hosting the party that I felt as if I were coming out of a long winter and finally walking into summer for the first time in over a year.

I'll never forget the feeling I had as I stood among these friends, serving myself a bit of food.  It was an impression of feeling like myself again.  I remember saying to myself, "This feels like summer.  This feels like the life I once knew."

Sometimes, we take for granted simple get-togethers where someone hosts a barbecue and others attend to share food, drinks, good conversation and friendship.  This year, I was struck by how I had just gone through the motions of attending social functions last year.  I had attended a few social events, but I had not really been free enough in my emotions to be there completely.  I appreciated being included.  I appreciated being remembered.  I just couldn't fully participate in a sustained conversation while I was at a social affair.  My usual sociable self was greatly muted.  My friend's tenure celebration party marked a new step for me in my journey toward healing.

Despite my feeling that I was ready to step into summer's activities, initially early this summer, I had wanted to be away from home for the 4th of July.  I just didn't want to be reminded that I was going to have to go through yet another holiday.  I didn't want to have to wait to see if we had an invitation to a party.  I didn't want to go sit at a fireworks display and remember that much of my way of viewing life had had been irrevocably altered by my daughter's death.  I just wanted to get away and go someplace that was new and different.

In the end, my husband and I did not make plans to get out of town for the 4th.  There just seemed to be too many complications on too many fronts to leave town for a few days and escape into the mountains of Colorado for solitude.  We stayed home and threw ourselves into working on the yard and getting things done at home.

Last week, I called my cousin and asked if she and her daughter who was in town from Arizona would like to celebrate the 4th with us.  There was a fireworks ban in Colorado Springs, so my cousin's grandchildren were not going to be able to see a display.  In fact, because it is so hot in Arizona, they had never seen a fireworks display except at a baseball game.  They were happy to come down and join us.

Jim and I got our game plan going and put together a meal for our guests.  We even fired up the old barbecue grill.  We realized it had been at least two years since we had turned on the grill.  We also realized we had not gone to a fireworks display for at least two years.  Jim had a hip replaced during the summer of 2009 and was recovering over the 4th.  Last year, we watch various displays in the distance from our back porch since I just wasn't up for being in a crowd watching fireworks.

Again, simple things have great meaning.  I made a big potato salad yesterday.  I cried as I cut up the potatoes because I remembered the last time I had made potato salad had been Easter of 2010.  Julie had come to my side, draped her arm on my shoulder and said, "Hi Momacita.  What do you want me to do to help?"   That weekend would be the last time I saw her alive.

Despite a few sad memories, it was good to prepare food for a gathering in my home again.  It was good to look forward to having my cousin and her daughter and grandchildren coming to join us in celebrating a holiday.  It was good to fire up the grill and cook some hamburgers and hot dogs again.

After eating way too much food, we headed out to Pueblo's Riverwalk to listen to the Pueblo Sympathy Orchestra play a mix of Broadway hits and patriotic music.  It was good to see the beautiful display of fireworks light up the sky.  It was good to be a part of celebrating summer and the simple things of life again.

My cousin and her daughter and grandchildren

My cousin and I
with her grandchildren