Independence Day, or The Longest Trip Yet

Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
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Trip End Aug 02, 2008


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Flag of United States  , Montana
Friday, July 4, 2008

As I write this the air is exploding with fireworks - the 232nd birthday of our Union.  In a fit of patriotism (or just some reminder of childhood, when I could enjoy fireworks without knowing all the gruesome context of perchlorate contamination from the explosives and the executive branch being in the hands of big corporations) I thought about going - but who wants to ride five miles on a huge bicycle in the dark, alongside drivers stunned by fireworks displays if not what they imbibed?  At least I managed to stay up and, finally, write.  The first week's entries will have to wait.

I am feeling lonely, depressed even.  Finally this morning I made contact with an old high school acquaintance, who became a friend when I lived here and found her again seven years after graduation.  We'd pinned some hopes on her family, I'll admit.  Our compost is piling up and we refuse to put it in the trash; no doubt, we thought, Claire and Jim would have a compost pile. More to the point, they have two kids just either side of Aislyn's age, and toys to go with them.  I was hoping too that they might have an unused umbrella stroller lying around, the $20 Wal-mart sort that I've been unable to find in thrift shops here but that would slide nicely into the pockets of the Freeloader sideways, so we'd have alternate transportation when we got to some destination and Ren was tired.  Most of all, though, I was hoping for a friend.  A like-minded, like-aged mom (and whole family) whose comraderie would make us feel more like Missoulians and less like overzealous tourists.

It took nearly a week of calling to have a conversation.  I left a message and then tried calling a few times a day, finally deciding they must be on vacation.  Then we ran into them at the water park, but Claire couldn't talk; she was with friends.  I watched her family surreptitiously as they splashed and little E. changed clothes in her lounge chair. It was strange to know and not know them.  It was strange to be in this city long enough that I felt I should know them.  Last time they were in Alaska when we visited; the time before we had a nice dinner the night before our plane left town.

So - we talked.  Yes, they have compost, and weren't too weirded out by our offer to present their pile and their chickens with a house gift of eggshells and melon rinds.  Yes, they have an old stroller we could borrow, which Jim drove down an hour later in his B.O.B. bike trailer.  (No, it does not fit comfortably in the X pockets when kids are riding.)  Yes, they'd love to get together, but their schedule is up in the air - we'll talk Sunday sometime, see what we can make work.  Mostly though what they have is their own life, chugging along here in Missoula, largely unaffected by this odd family that wants to pretend they live here for a month.  

And so I spent my Independence Day independent of them, and of Joe, who organized a 5-person ski trip today on Lolo Peak.  I spent it independent of my car, taking the kids all the way out to Fort Missoula, beyond even the strip-mall barrier of Reserve Street, six miles from our little Lower Rattlesnake house.  And independent of the borrowed stroller, though it meant Ren spent several hours clinging to my back and never did get a decent nap.  I spent it independent of the many scattered picnics we saw in Bonner Park as the kids played in the sprinkler.  My July Fourths have for many years been a time for travel, since our big family reunion happens July third each year.  But at least there is that party, festive and inclusive.  Today all I wanted was to be part of something, and I never felt like I got it.
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