Today in the U.S. is Independence Day. The day we won our independence from England and set out on our own to build this wonderful country of ours. Happy Birthday America!
I feel like I need to qualify what Independence Day is because, like most stupid and self-centered Americans, I tend to forget that the rest of the world doesn't celebrate the same Independence Day that we do. Like the time I couldn't figure out why my co-workers in London weren't off from work on 7/4...um...yeah. So to those who are not Americans - today is a pretty big deal here and I have the day off from work. Yay!
I was turning over the word "independence" in my head this morning and I started thinking about all of my own independence days. There have been many over the years - some good, some bad - some earned, some granted - some hard fought, some hard won - all a part of who I am.
The first - the easiest for me - was my independence from my mother's womb. The story goes that I fought my way to be born. My dad says the doctor thought for sure I wasn't going to make it and that I actually "clawed" my way out. Kind of a fitting metaphor for the rest of my life I think. Not sure I actually believe the story but it makes good dinner conversation.
Then there was the independence I felt when I started school. Hmmm...I get to go to a room and play all day and then take a nap and get a snack and go home? (That was back in the olden days when "kindergarten" was a euphemism for "play date".) Even as a five year old I could tell that being away from home might not be so bad.
There's also the independence you feel when you go away for your first sleepover. Some kids get scared and cry and have to be taken home in the middle of the night. Not this girl. The first time I had a sleepover at someone else's house and realized that there were parents who a) liked each other and b) didn't get drunk and fall down, getting invited to other people's houses became my job. I had an overnight bag packed so I could be out the door in 3.2 seconds flat if I got an invite.
I gained a certain amount of independence when I moved from Catholic School to public school. Again, back in the olden days, Catholic school wasn't the cake walk it is today. My particular Catholic experience was filled with itchy wool jumpers (yes...even in the summer), Fridays spent in mass where they spoke Latin and you couldn't slump when you knelt on the kneelers, and very large, very angry nuns who liked to drag you around by the ear if you misbehaved (you know...like slumping when kneeling on the kneelers).
Public school was filled with all manner of debauchery by comparison. First of all I could wear whatever the hell I pleased even, gasp, shorts in the summer! And there were no nuns! No matter how hard I looked and how much I expected one to come around a corner with a kid by the ear, none (ha-ha) ever materialized. And the playgrounds had actual playground equipment. Jungle gyms and swings and tetherball courts. (Catholic school playgrounds are parking lots...seriously.) And the girls would hang upside down on the jungle gyms so that the shorts they wore under their dresses could be seen by the boys...oh my. That particular independence journey was a walk on the wild side for sure.
Then the ultimate in the journey to independence. The Holy Grail of independence for any budding teen...the day I got my driver's license.
I skipped school and had my mother take me to the Department of Motor Vehicles at 8:00 am the morning of my 16th birthday. At 10:00 am I was a bona fide licensed driver. I can't describe the feeling of freedom that comes from driving away from your house for the first time by yourself. It's just the greatest feeling on the planet...well...next to that first orgasm that is.
Then there's moving out for the first time. I didn't go to college right away so, the minute I graduated from high school, I got a job, got married (a simple roommate would have been smarter) and got an apartment. I never looked back - I was on my own. To go home in the evening and know what was waiting for me was heaven. The apartment was small and shabbily furnished but it didn't matter...it was home and it was mine.
There were many more - too numerous to mention in a simple blog post - but the biggest and baddest of them all was when I earned my independence from alcohol. Even bigger than when I quit smoking and believe me, up until I quit drinking I thought that was the hardest thing I'd ever done. To be free of those chains and all that came with them was just the best damn thing I could ever imagine. Now it did take me a helluva long time to realize it was the best damn thing I could ever imagine but I promise it was and is. Best damn thing...ever. Better than the driver's license.
Better than the orgasm...seriously...I mean the orgasm is pretty damn good but really, I'd give it up if it was a requirement to stay sober. Ha! How THAT for serious!
Happy 4th to all of my American friends and happy whatever independence you are celebrating to everyone else.
"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. "