A different kind of freedom

I love Independence Day -- but it brings out the weirdos. 

Among the yearly celebrations with friends, fireworks, selling ice cream along the Columbia to drunken Portlanders, and watching the sky explode in Missoula, Montana while my husband belly-flopped on a homemade slip-n-slide, there's always the one party that takes the cake. My husband had started a new job in Portland, Oregon and we were invited to the home of one of his co-workers. Bundling up the three kids, we headed across the Columbia to a tiny picture-perfect village for the festivities. Then we left it and drove into hell.

Not really. I just get a little dramatic. Occupational hazard.

We did leave the main part of town and drove into the outskirts. The sidewalks were a little dustier, old dogs barely raised their heads as we maneuvered around them lying in the middle of the street, and we came to their address. Rolling to a stop in our POS Peugeot with questionable braking capabilities, we filed out and approached the house in a flurry of Graham activity. Wynter was still an infant and suctioned to my hip while Syen toddled into the yard and tried to grab dog poop. We were ushered into the house, a flat ranch-style house of indiscriminate color (harder to pick out in a line up), and filled to the brim with wood paneling and dead heads. Whatever critter had ever crossed his path had been stuffed and mounted for his viewing pleasure all over the house. The girls loved it. 

Over the mantle, and again in the hallways, kitchen, and bathrooms were photos of his lovely wife -- in various states of undress. There must have been a special on boudoir photography that month because wherever you looked, her ladybits were expressing themselves in come-hither glory. Meeting her while she stood over a hot stove, her hair standing up in sweat waves, was awkward after seeing her discreet tattoos moments before, but the small talk about the weather totally made up for it. After dark and watching them throw back a case of beer, they brought out their own -- homemade -- fireworks. We were in too deep. We couldn't gracefully exit. Sitting on the curb of chipped concrete, and Syenna in my lap, we waited for his version of a bottle rocket to light. We didn't have to wait long, immediately after it was lit, it flew from the bottle and straight at me and Syen. Rolling back into the dirt, it missed my face and Syen's head by inches. That's it. We were done. I packed up the diapers, threw my singed hair into a ponytail, and said goodbye to our hosts. I don't think they even noticed -- they were too busy lighting farts. 

On this Independence Day, I celebrate the most elusive of freedoms: the right to be completely free to be who you want to be. To share your ladybits with friends and any UPS man that comes to the door. To craft foolhardy explosives in your kitchen while lighting up another Marlboro. The right to make the worst goddamn potato salad in existence (that one is mine) and still force it on strangers. Now, go hug an eagle and cram some hot dogs into your pie hole as the founding fathers intended, and Happy 4th of July!


  1. Now those are people you never, ever want to see again!

  2. We never did. I think my husband couldn't look his co-worker in the eye after seeing those photos. O.o