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JUL
28

Fireworks: Musings on a Small Town

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This is just a firework, and a mediocre one at that, but it's a firework that was set off in my hometown, above the baseball fields in the town park. Other than Christmas, I go home so seldom that I think this past weekend may have been the first time in over a dozen years that I was around for the annual summer festival.

It's comforting, going home. You know where everything is, for a few days you feel as young as you did while living there, and that so much seems exactly the same is a great constant amidst the fluctuations fast enveloping all other aspects of your life. But even as I walked through the booths at the small festival thinking that everything--the layout, the goods, the pre-fireworks exploding anvil--was identical to when I was a teenager and taking some comfort in that, it was also a teensy bit alarming to realize how much about this trip was, in fact, different. The golf course has been renamed. To something totally ridiculous, by the way. The Dairy Queen is about to be replaced by another franchise; some dispute over fry sauce. And when I attended my old church congregation, I saw a sea of mostly strangers. It felt weird to introduce myself. "I grew up here," I said, as if I were reaching for some kind of justification for being there at all.

It's just the way of things, I suppose. You never forget or feel less endeared to a place, but the connections you have there grow thin when you move away and never come back. Writing books about the people you grew up with doesn't really help your cause either, but I've made my choices, I suppose. I guess I just wish I chose home more often. It's hard to find good fry sauce.

JUL
05

Jazz and the Fireworks

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I probably should have been thinking last night about freedom and independence and bombs bursting in air, but mostly I was thinking about my childhood dog, Jazz, (named after the star jasmine flower) and how she used to run and hide in the backyard shed at the first sign of fireworks. I’ve since learned that this fear plagues many other dogs--pretty sure my aunt Leah full-on drugs her bulldog every July 4--but at the time, I thought it was unique to Jazz. I also thought it was kind of adorable. That she would feel somehow safer inside the dilapidated and actually quite frightening shed that none of us kids would be caught dead touching with a ten foot pole.

Animals have been on my mind this week, as I took Clementine to the vet the other day for her yearly appointment. She ended up having to get some blood drawn, and while I was waiting for the doctor to bring her back up front, a woman came in the front door holding a small dog. As soon as this woman shut the door behind her, she started sobbing. “What’s wrong?” another woman asked, to which the sobbing woman replied, “I have to put her down. She has cancer.” The asking woman instinctively reached her arm out and touched the sobbing woman’s shoulder and expressed condolences.

What happened next was one of the most unifyingly human moments I’ve experienced in a long time. Because every single person in that waiting room began to cry. It simply could not be helped. Part of it was this dog, her body so cancer-riddled that she was struggling to breathe. Most of it though was seeing this woman so gutted over the impending loss of her dog. Animal owners ourselves, we understood, and the very idea of having to go through such a loss is never really far from our minds. Jazz herself lost a battle with cancer, and someday, God forbid, Clementine may meet the same fate. When and however it happens, my day with the pink juice will arrive, and when it does, I hope there’s a waiting room full of people to help get me through it. I also hope that Jazz enjoyed the show last night. Wherever she is, it’s surely a much better view.

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