4th of July
“Get up! Get up! Get up!”
It felt like a high magnitude earthquake was occurring just from beneath my bed. Shake after shake, bounce after bounce; the extra pillows that were laying upon my bed were being tossed to the floor; I was lucky enough to not have fallen right behind them. I groaned, rolled over, and glanced at the clock. Barely even 8 o’clock in the morning and I had just fallen asleep around 5. I wanted to bury my head into a dark hole and sleep in pure silence for another few hours or so. The shaking paused for a moment and I thought that maybe I would have my chance to do just that. That is, until I heard a high pitched squeal coming from right above my head. A shrill, evil battle cry, was coming forth from this demon spawn’s lips and piercing my ears with sheer determination behind it. Before I could even react, at least 60 lbs of mass crashed down on top of my sprawled out body.
“Ugh! Damn it Cally!
“I’m going to tell mom on you. That’s a bad word and you know mom hates it when you use bad words.”
I tried to squeeze out from underneath my sister, slowly, without throwing her to the floor in the process (Though I would have much preferred to just throw her on the floor). It didn’t work. She felt like dead weight laying upon my back and there was no escaping.
“I don’t care Cally, just get off of me. Its too early for this. I’m tired.”
“Maybe if you would go to bed at a decent time, you wouldn’t have to sleep till noon everyday.” Cally started bouncing on my back, making my bed, and us, move along with it.
“Cal-ly!!! Sto-p it!” The pressure of her body on my back combined with the bouncing, was making it hard to speak properly, or even breath for that matter.
The bouncing stopped but the giggling had begun. What in the world did this 8 yr old have for breakfast? An energy drink? I haven’t seen her behave in this manner since she was a preschooler. It was nerve-wracking. I thought these days were long gone.
“Seriously kid, why don’t you get off my back and explain why you are in here to begin with. I promise to get up if you get up.”
“You promise Lilly?” She leaned down so that I could see her pouting lips and puppy dog eyes staring right at me. I mean really? Who could turn that face down?
“I pinkie promise Cal, just please. I cant breathe.”
“Yay!” Cally rolled off of my back and scampered across my room and sat into my desk chair. She began rolling it across the floor without a care in the world. I just shook my head slightly and sat up in bed. I quietly watched Cally as she continued to enjoy the most simplistic of activities. To see her smile grow that big, over something that small, brought my own smile upon face. I didn’t even care about the mere 3 hours sleep I had gotten any longer.
“Alright. I’m up and I ‘m listening. What’s with the fireworks this morning?”
Cally abruptly stopped rolling and began to stare at me with her mouth agape. “That’s just it Lil. Fireworks.”
“Yes, fireworks. Which is what I am calling your crazy entrance this morning. A wild array of fireworks.”
“No Lilly. Real fireworks. It happens tonight. Moms taking me to see them after the cookout tonight. I have never been so excited.”
I stared at her for a moment not really understanding why that made her so happy. Happier than I have probably ever seen her. Its not like its the first time she would be able to see fireworks. Just last year mom took us to the harbor to watch them over the water. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know why you are so excited though. You’ve seen fireworks before.”
“But now, I know what they mean. Just yesterday, Mrs. Sands taught us all about the 4th of July. None of my other teachers had bothered to tell us what all of the parties and fireworks meant. They always just said to enjoy our break. Maybe they thought we were still too young to understand. Either way, I know now Lil and I cant wait to see them with that meaning in mind.” Another smile sprawled across her face and she began to bounce in the chair, continuously showing her excitement.
I couldn’t believe that this was my little sister, who only minutes ago was re-enacting pro wrestling moves, telling me she wanted to experience Independence Day for the meaning in which it conveys. There are grown adults who don’t even give a damn about that. I was flabbergasted.
“Wow, I’m impressed. Its nice to see you so excited over this.”
“Its super exciting Lil.” She hopped up out of my chair and began skipping her way out of my room. Time for a little more shut eye I thought, as I began to lay back down.
“Oh!” Cally paused in my doorway and swung back around to face me. “I almost forgot to tell you… Mom said she wants you to be up and dressed by 9. She wants help getting things ready for the cookout.” She flashed a smile and continued her trek out of my room. So much for sleep. I guess I needed to get a shower instead.
It was going on 2 pm and the house and backyard were beginning to fill up with our family and friends. We’ve been running around all morning cleaning and cooking for this gathering and the last thing I wanted to do now was to actually “gather”. My late night, accompanied by my early morning wake up call, was beginning to take a serious toll on my body and current mental state. A few hours of mingling left to go before I could hit my bed once more, I had to push through.
I plopped down on the bench swing and gazed at everyone around. It was always a nice sight to see everyone come together and enjoy themselves. Well, almost everyone. Dad was still barricading himself in his office because of a huge case he had coming up in a couple of days, but really, there was nothing new about that. It’ll be days before I see him again.
I caught a glimpse of Cally on the play set with a few of her friends from school and some of our little cousins. She was smiling, and laughing, and I could hear her telling everyone about the fireworks she would see tonight. It was a shame that Dad wouldn’t be going with them later but I knew that her and Mom would have a great time. I didn’t even want to think about fireworks though. If I couldn’t see them from my bed, I didn’t want to see them at all.
I scanned the yard once more over and found mom conversing with Aunt Lisa. I must have stared too long apparently though because the next thing I knew, mom was waving me over. It was time to mingle I suppose.
The evening began to roll in with the clock reading almost 7. The house was almost fully clear with everyone going to their respective places to watch fireworks. I couldn’t have been happier. All day I was bombarded with questions of what college I had chosen to attend come fall. Which of course that question led into full fledged conversations about college life in general. The day could not have ended soon enough.
As the last guest exited the house, I went up to my room and plopped on the bed. I was finally ready to doze off when I heard Cally yelling, crying, and then running into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
“Lilly?” My mom peaked her head around the corner of my doorway.
“Yeah?” I looked up from my pillow and could tell that my mom was slightly flustered.
“I have to go into work. I have a patient in labor and I need to be there. Your sister is very upset with me. Maybe you could take some time and try to calm her? Your dad is still in his office if you need anything.” and then she was gone.
So that’s what all of that noise was for. Mom had to go to work which meant that Cally couldn’t go see the fireworks. As excited as she was today, she was probably devastated now. I dragged myself out of bed and made my way down the hall to my sisters bedroom. I pushed her door open and found her with her face buried into her pillow, curled up on her bed, sobbing. I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of pain reverberate within my chest. I found myself sitting next to her, rubbing her back calmly as I used to when she couldn’t sleep at night.
“Cally… I’m sorry mom had to leave.” I continued to rub her hoping that it would eventually coax her to sit up. It seemed to calm her slightly but it took longer than I would have thought to help the crying stop. A couple of minutes had passed before she finally decided to raise her head. I caught a glimpse of the final tears that she had let fall, roll down her cheeks. “Its alright Cal.”
“Its not alright.” She started to sob again lightly but caught herself before the tears pooled once more. “I really wanted this Lilly. I told all of my friends… I was looking forward to this… I…” She broke off with the tears starting to stream once more. I grabbed a tissue from her bedside table and lightly wiped them away from her face. She sniffled and then looked up into my eyes. “Can you take me Lilly?”
My heart broke a little then. I wanted to be there for her so badly. “Cally, its like 5 miles to the site and you know I don’t have a license yet. I’m still taking classes. We would never make it there in time if we walked either.” She threw her face back into the pillow and abruptly started wailing. I had to do something. I stared at the wall for a moment bouncing ideas through my head. I knew bothering dad was out of the question. Even though mom said if I needed anything he was there, I knew he would never open his office door. Everyone else I knew was already attending their nights festivities, leaving me with only one possible option. “Ill be right back Cal.”
A few minutes later and I was ready to cheer up my little sister, I hoped. “Alright, dry your tears and come on. We have some fireworks to go see.”
The sad face that I had seen moments before quickly changed from despair to jubilation. “Really?!”
I chuckled, “Yes really, come on girl.” She ran towards me and embraced me in the tightest hug I had probably ever received. “Thank you.” She mumbled into my stomach.
“You’re welcome” I grabbed her hand and led her out front as we waited.
“Why are we just standing here Lil?” She looked up at me bewildered.
“You’ll see.” A minute later a yellow taxi appeared in front of our house.
“A Taxi!” Cally squealed in amusement. “I’ve never been in a taxi before. This is awesome.”
Another smile became plastered on my face. To see just how excited the little things made her could make anyone’s day brighter.
We pulled up to the elementary school, where they were setting off the fireworks this year, with time left to find a seat upon the hill. I gave the driver the only twenty I had and then we began our little hike. Exhaustion nearly took over as I reached the top but I held it together as I helped Cally up the last few steps. We settled ourselves on the grassy knoll and looked upon the sky for the show to begin. My little sister barely spoke two words while we waited for things to begin. She just gazed upward with a beautiful gleam of excitement in her eyes. I could barely keep mine open and I bet she never even dared to blink.
The noises came unexpectedly and made us both jump in fright. Once the sky began to light up in beautiful colors though, our bodies began to relax and our eyes became fixated. Cally’s eyes never strayed and her mouth never closed. She started pointing up at the sky and yelling out her favorites as it was clear that her emotions were becoming uncontrollable. I never strayed my eyes either. They were locked on to Cally’s love and excitement. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
The show ended and there was happiness all around. Exhaustion as well. We began to walk home since that was our only option. I used the only cash that I had to get us here knowing this would end up being the outcome. I could see Cally begin to drag her feet a bit and start to fall behind. She was sated with happiness. “Come here Cal, I’ll carry you.”
Miles walked, with frequent sitting breaks in between, and we were finally back to our front door. Mom still wasn’t back home yet and I’m sure dad had never even left the office. I sat Cally down, practically asleep on her feet, so that I could open up the door. I promptly picked her back up and carried her to her room. After tucking her in bed, and was ready to go pass out in my own, I took a minute to watch over my little sister as she snuggled beneath her blankets.
“Lil?” A barely audible whisper escaped my sleepy sisters mouth.
“Yes Cal, I’m still here.”
“Do you think the British Empire missed having the Colonies a part of them?”
“That has got to be the weirdest thing I have ever heard.”
“I know. I was just thinking about how the colonies declared their independence, the reason for today’s celebration. It just made me wonder about people wanting independence in general. I think I am going to really miss you.”
My heart thumped in my chest and then melted within a matter of seconds. “You’re worried about me leaving for school?”
Cally sat up in bed and stared at me through the darkness. “I am. Its you’re own form of independence, right? You’re leaving us. Making your own separate life.”
I shook my head and walked over to the edge of this amazing little girl’s bed. I bent down and looked into her eyes. “You heard the conversations earlier with everyone at the cookout today, didn’t you?”
She bowed her head slightly. “I did.”
“I will be leaving Cal. Not forever though. Its a different kind of Independence. I may not always be physically around but I will always be here to talk to you when you need it. I will also be home for breaks and holidays, even the whole summer. I will only be a few hours away. I’m not declaring a separate life. That would never happen. I will be independent in a way but my heart will always be yours.” I brushed her hair out of her eyes and kissed her on her forehead as I stood back up. “Lay back down and get some sleep Cally.”
She slowly slid down in her bed and began to flutter her eyes shut. “Thank you for the fireworks Lilly. It was the best night ever.”
“You’re welcome.” I lightly closed her door behind me and made my way to my own bed. This was probably the longest day I have ever had to partake in. I wouldn’t change it for anything though. As I finally allowed my body to succumbed to the exhaustion it had been fighting all day, I replayed everything through my mind once more. I knew that I would never forget just exactly how my sister was today. I would remember her smiles, her laughs, her tears, and her sorrows; it will pull me through each and every day of my life. Independence Day has a new meaning for me now and all it took was my little sister’s love to make that happen.