Independence from Independence Day

I made previous reference to the fact that I have not also been the biggest fan of this particular holiday weekend. Now, lest anyone think otherwise, that has nothing to do with how I feel about Independence Day itself. I do and always have very much appreciated celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, even if the July 4th holiday has more to do with politics after the War of 1812 than the Revolution. See…occasionally politics can actually accomplish something useful.

So anyway, yes, I’m a huge fan of the whole Independence thing. I’m pretty sure that Puddintopia doesn’t exist without the protections of the Constitution, which would have been impossible without first telling King George where to stick it. It’s the trappings, though, the obligations, of this particular holiday weekend that make me not so thrilled.

For one thing, everything has to be held outside. It’s a rule; if you have an indoor July 4th gathering, you’re a Tory or something. It’s a little known fact, but the holiday is actually about declaring our independence from air conditioning.

I like air conditioning, a lot.

I’m not, however, a huge fan of sitting my sweaty ass in a lawn chair for four hours and serving as a buffet for flies while watching the potato salad creep slowly toward salmonella-ville. Yes, I might finally have reached a point in my life where I enjoy summer. Still, I’m an Indoorsman at heart.

Random side note: how come there’s no “Indoorsman” magazine?

Anyway, it’s not just climate conditions that make me not the hugest fan of Independence Day weekend; there are also the parades. As I’m not sure how to say it without being tied to a stake and set aflame, witch-style, I’m just going to be straightforward about it: I just don’t like parades.

While I’m waiting for the hate e-mail to arrive, I’ll explain. First, everyone is supposed to like parades. As a contrarian, I feel compelled to ask why I’m supposed to like these parades so much. They have to be held outdoors (you know how I feel about that already), and, in my area, at least, they consist of little more than the local city government breaking out the fire-trucks and police cars (yay, tax money!) and giving the politicians an opportunity to pimp to a captive audience. Emergency vehicles with blaring sirens and flashing lights kind of lost their appeal for me a while ago, and I don’t much like politicking. So, no, I’m not going to get all parade crazy until there’s a Puddintopia Parade, and I won’t be holding my breath on that one.

Honestly, the worst part about not liking parades is being made to feel like a pariah because you don’t like parades. It’s no one’s fault, but it’s akin to not liking ranch dressing. One out of everyone billion people does not like ranch dressing. When it’s you against the population of China, then, you start to feel like an idiot. Maybe you should like ranch, maybe it’s made of crack or something. But no, for whatever reason, a hit of ranch on your tongue triggers the gag reflex in your brain. Wanting to be like everyone else can’t change that.

The other thing that makes it hard to really appreciate the Independence Day weekend is the fact that it ruins the Puddinette’s birthday for me. Her birthday is July 2nd, which means it often disappears in the glut of gatherings one is expected to attend over the span of four days. You’ve got to hang with your family, and your in-laws would like to see you too. Cousin Jimmy likes to have a party to blow some s*!t up, and your third cousin on your Dad’s side is having a pool party. Oh, and can you bring some potato salad for the all-day, 90-degree picnic?

It’s not that I don’t like watching Cousin Jimmy blow fingers off or that I don’t want to hang with my family, the in-laws, or various extended branches thereof. Of course I do. But dragging four kids to eighteen places over four days is exhausting; by the end, you’re just glad to be getting back to routine. Worse, what it means is that your beloved, thankless wife, the one person who really takes care of you and makes sure you don’t wear stained, wrinkled clothes to work, basically gets the minimum effort, at best, for her birthday.

Admittedly, she’s not a huge fan of making a thing of her birthday, so that’s probably OK with her. She means the whole world to me, though, and I know, for a fact, that we don’t give her enough solid family time. For her birthday, then, I want her to have memories, lots of them, of these times when the kids are small enough to still want to do stuff with us, together. Fifteen years from now, she’ll be able to remember how we saw the Barbie exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum in 2010. She won’t really need pictures, and it will stick out in her mind as being a wonderful birthday weekend.

So, the past couple of years we’ve taken family vacations over the holiday. We’ve spent the days together, tightly knit, just she and I and the kids. I know we’re short changing lots of people by being selfish with this weekend. We’ll make it up to them the rest of the year. But I won’t feel bad about it. I’m giving my wife something that she’ll keep with her for a lot longer than the food poisoning that comes with potato salad or the memory of how her cousin became Three-Fingered Jimmy.

I might not like parades, but I’d go to them for the Puddinette. As an alternative, I like to think that we’re giving her a present that she’ll keep longer than the half-melted Tootsie Rolls picked up off the street that our Senator chucked at us.