My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Special 3rd 4th

Note: If you're looking for my post about Teresa Bartlinski, it's the post immediately before this one (or just click HERE). It will remain online as long as this blog is operating.

Happy day after Independence Day, everybody!

My sister is a fireworks fanatic; it's not the Fourth of July if there aren't fireworks (although she'll accept them on the 5th or 6th if the weather makes it necessary). As much as I enjoy watching them, it's AJ who's pushed us each year to make sure we get to the fireworks show on time.  We used to go down to the National Mall in DC, to roughly the same spot every year, sometimes with friends and/or other family members in tow. No matter what was on the schedule, AJ's fireworks (and Brian's photos thereof) were THE main attraction. A lot of different things combined to make that increasingly difficult and decreasingly pleasant so we began seeking out other venues. Eventually we stumbled onto the annual fireworks in College Park and that became "it" for us.

This is from the 2008 show... it's a lot less "jumpy" in QuickTime
format. The video was taken with my old Palm Zire 72 PDA!
AJ and I are both alumni of the University of Maryland's College Park campus, so it was kind of a homecoming for us. We'd get to Lot 1 around 6:00pm and, after the Annual Argument Over Where To Park, would set up shop in the dirt/grass strip along one side of the lot; close enough to hear the live music, an easy walk to all the concessions stands, and great seats for the fireworks show (we usually could see the launch team moving between the mortars during the show).

It gets a LOT more crowded as time passes...!
July of 2010 was a little different; we all knew that AJ and I would be leaving for China within a week, and mixed with the strong feeling of anticipation was a little poignancy over the knowledge that it was the last July 4th for "just the four of us." The weather was good, the show was good, and by the time we had gotten home we were all ready to have the Pipsqueak experience her first Independence Day fireworks show with us the next year.

Alas, it was not to be.  July 4th, 2011 was a fine, hot, sunny day... and by mid-afternoon it was obvious even to AJ that the Pipsqueak was not healthy enough for us to go see the fireworks; we were all exhausted, and she was crochety and feverish. "Okay," said my sister, "We'll skip this year, but we'd better go next year!"

Fast-forward to July 4th, 2012 -- and guess what? Our schedules were a mess, we were a mess, the weather was iffy... and the Pipsqueak was crochety and feverish. I could see my sister's frustration when she said, "Okay, but I'm going to see fireworks next year if I have to go by myself!" (To this day I'm not sure she didn't mean it.)

This year, Independence day dawned hot and bright, and I managed to drag myself out of bed early enough to get to Mom & Dad's neighborhood to see AJ & the Pipsqueak "marching" in the community parade. The parade ends at the community pool, and Miri (under Mommy's watchful eye) went wading in the kiddy pool. It was funny to see how carefully she held up the front of her skirt to keep it dry, never once thinking about the back end that was trailing in the water behind her. Even a spirited wringing-out session failed to dry the Pipsqueak off, so it was back to Grandma & Grandpa's (and eventually home) to rinse the chlorinated water out of her special patriotic outfit and pop it into the dryer. (My niece laughingly declared, "I naked!" when she peeled off her damp shirt in the middle of Grandma's kitchen... and when I foolishly pointed out she wasn't really because she still had some clothing on, she quickly stripped off everything and ran laughing around the house 'til Mommy corralled her and got dry panties & shirt onto her little nudist. We'll have to work on that... <sigh>)

A few days earlier, we had learned that a dear old friend would be in town without her family so it seemed only natural to invite her along... which quickly became an extended group invite, and suddenly "the five of us" became fifteen, including three kidlings of assorted ages. We planned to form a caravan from our folks' house with AJ's van in the lead, but there were complications (primarily the usual, "has anybody seen the cat?!?") so we arrived roughly an hour later than planned...

...and good ol' Lot 1 was jammed, nary an open spot in sight. Eventually we found several spaces all the way down at the far end of the lot, so we parked and set up our chairs and blankets and coolers and basinette and boxes and tote bags and everything else on a small patch of grass by one of the buildings, where all four(!) generations settled down to a slightly messy picnic and general conversation. (We all moaned when, as I complained about having to shake about 1/4 pound of grass seed out of one folding chair, one friend laughingly pointed out, "well, it is a lawn chair, right?")

The Pipsqueak had been getting a little whiny during our search for a spot ("Are we at the fireworks yet, Mommy? Are we at the fireworks yet, Mommy? Are we at...") but once we were all out of the van and things were set up she returned to her usual happy, highly energetic self. She played a little with the same-age son of some of our friends, ran around a bit, went on a walk with the little boy & his father, and then befriended the little girl whose family was on the blanket next to our group and happily caused all kinds of fun mayhem with her (accompanied by many graciously-received apologies from AJ).

The first big chrysanthemum shell burst overhead at 9:15 as scheduled, and for the next thirty-odd minutes Miri finally experienced her first Independence Day fireworks show. She bounced around on AJ for a while until I put down my camera and asked if she'd like to stand on me instead (my poor sister really needed a break by then!), then stood / bounced / sat / squirmed / jumped(!) on me for a while before returning to keep Mommy company. Most of the time, the little girl who ducks and cringes at most loud sounds was enthralled by the banging and booming of the shells, laughing and yelling out loud with each explosion and truly having a grand old time with it all.

Somehow, despite always wanting to get some good fireworks photos, it seemed perfectly natural for me to put aside my camera so my niece could stand on my knees and jump up & down on me.  We'd both laugh at my occasional pained "oof!" and somehow I didn't mind in the least when I had to crane my neck to see around her, or explain I couldn't see the fireworks if I held her upside-down, or had to gasp for breath when she sat on my chest and bounced. AJ, as tired as she was, thoroughly enjoyed finally getting to see her beloved July 4th fireworks, and it was made all the sweeter when her daughter ran back to her to watch from her Mommy's lap. The Pipsqueak's Grandma & Grandpa kept glancing over at their granddaughter, watching her antics almost as much as they watched the fireworks with quiet smiles on their faces.

We may have had to wait a couple of extra years, but as the saying goes "third time's the charm" and we finally brought the Pipsqueak to see her first Independence Day fireworks show... and it was every bit as good and happy as we had ever thought it would be.  (We know it was just as big a hit with the Pipsqueak because today while out shopping with her Mommy, she kept spinning around in place with her hands in the air saying, "I'm a firework! Bang! Boom!")

Happy (day after) Independence Day, everybody!

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