We had a bang-up 4th of July party with 20+ guests in our backyard and kitchen. We all know that’s where most of the socializing tends to occur. It’s a law of nature.
One couple brought their small children, Sophi and Samantha. We learned that Sophi knows what cats look like, but the rest of the animal world from dogs to camels is considered the same creature. You have to love such a simple worldview.
Samantha discovered the company my stepdaughters late in the day. They carefully played with sparklers out on the lawn. Then the trio of them held hands and danced without music. Such is the imaginary life of women young and old. They can dance without music and be happy.
I watched Sue playing Ladder Ball with some of our triathlon friends. It’s a game involving two sets of plastic ladders that are set up about ten yards apart. There are sets of plastic balls fixed together with rope. You try to throw them toward the ladder in a fashion that makes them catch and twirl around one of the rungs. It’s simple backyard fun. Sue calls them Grandpa Balls because of their resemblance to the late stages of the male anatomy and a sagging nutsack.
Sitting in the Adirondack chairs with a trio of women, I could not help making a few untoward jokes about the ribald name of the game. Making nutjokes after having put a few beers in you is what males do when temporarily unleashed from reality by the calm of a July afternoon under a fading sun.
Back in the kitchen there were plans being made for upcoming events in the triathlon world. Then I noticed a post on Facebook from the daughter of an Ironman triathlete in our group named Lida Kuehn. Her daughter took up the sport just a year ago and this weekend rode 100 miles in 5:09. Just under 20 mph. I sat there in awe for a moment staring at the post on Facebook. Then I stood up to compliment her mother. “That’s a really good ride,” I told her by way of compliment.
“Well, I rode 5:02,” she chirped. This is a woman who in her early 50s took up the sport and went from never having run or ride to finishing Ironman Wisconsin on one of the toughest courses in the Midwest. That’s what comes of having a fine internal engine from years of endurance swimming.
In fact the entire Kuehn family is composed of athletes. Her son Scottie played Division 1 football for Illinois State University. Her husband John played for a national championship Division III basketball program at North Park University, which was North Park College back then.
But John was equally interested in talking about the accomplishments of their daughter Stephanie when she wasn’t an athlete in high school. Possessed with a great voice, their daughter competed with a Show Choir team that performed well all the way up the national level. “When you hear 40 voices, thirty of which are really, really good, it’s quite an experience. ” Add in the choreography and dancing, and it’s almost like an athletic competition.
They are really great parents, which provided such an interesting bookend to the presence of the little girls who were finding their way around from group to group at the party. You try to share with young parents that it all goes too fast and there’s obviously a realization there. The young parents know it. But the demands of immediate parenting are so great one is forced to live in the moment no matter what.
As if to illustrate that point, little two-year-old Sophi wandered out of the garage when I was talking with her mom about choosing a bike. Sophi had spotted the inviting spray of the watering system next door. She traipsed across the lawn in little steps and parked herself in the horizontal spray of the water, soaking her dress in the process.
Her mother Emily wandered over and scooped up the now sopping wet child. She wrung out the dress and set the girl back down. “She loves water.” Enough said.
The same could be said of my wife, who slips in an out of water like the two-legged mermaid that she is. She also wrings herself dry in moments and moves on to the next thing in life. We grow up, but some of us never grow old.
Fireflies and fireworks
Which became evident as the fireflies came out and with them, the fireworks. First came the sparklers as always. Then one of our triathlon friends hauled out the Big Stuff. Our yard is perfectly suited for setting off fireworks even though they are perfectly illegal in Illinois. Our yard backs up to a section of unincorporated Batavia Township and our extended back yard is technically Park District property. Just a big grassy field where we tossed lighted aero disks and hit wiffleballs as the sun went down.
As true dusk fell, our friend set up shop with a large box of fireworks garnered from trips to Wisconsin and Indiana. He lit up the sky in syncopated fashion along with other pyromaniacs in the neighborhood. A group next door did not seem to get the concept of how fireworks operate. The aimed their Roman displays right into the trees, and debris came flopping down.
As Sue and I gathered papery debris from our back lawn in the morning, it seemed odd that such magnified explosions could come from such frail articles. There were little paper parachutes attached by string to cardboard gunpowder holders. Somewhere east of this Eden we call America those little bombs were assembled and shipped back for us to celebrate our supposed freedoms. There could perhaps be no better symbol for the challenges that face America than that.