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Explosions in the Sky

I'm listening to the fireworks over Lake Union in Seattle as I write this.

I've never been a particularly patriotic person (performative nationalism has never been something I've ever understood or given any thought to doing), but there's a ritual, I understand, to this holiday in the U.S., that I sporadically participate in. I went to a barbecue in the backyard of my building today, but very likely only because I'm friends with the people throwing it, and I only had to go down a few flights of stairs.

In fact, only a few Fourth of Julys in my life stand out.

2003 - Myself, the rather gorgeous woman I was half-heartedly involved with, and another woman went to see Explosions in the Sky play their fourth anniversary show. That was the night they cemented themselves as my favorite band, as they played the entirety of the still unreleased The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place. The semi-relationship I had ended shortly after that night, but being in the cozy venue (The Parish, I think) on that very hot night in Austin, listening to the sublime beauty of that album, holding the hand of a girl I was very enamored with, was one of the best nights of my rather wild years back in Austin.

2005 - My last summer in my hometown. I knew it was my last summer, so I spent the entire summer doing things I hadn't before, including going to watch the fireworks over Lady Bird Lake. It was a solitary evening, with me on my bike simply going down to the lake, sitting on the lawn with my favorite companion of my grad school years at UT, my beloved Peugeot bicycle and watching the show. It's the only time I've ever watched a fireworks show and I did it, anticipating the nostalgia I would feel once I left and not wanting to regret not doing the last few things I had never done there. I was thankful for my solitary evening, after a few years of communal living and too many poorly thought out romantic entanglements and it was a lovely summer night in Austin.

2011 - Probably the most notable of my Fourth of July memories. I was at San Francisco General, cradling my relatively new infant, listening to the fireworks explode over the Bay Bridge. While the baby slept, I put in my headphones, and because of the wonders of portable technology, I listened to that same album from eight years previous, still beyond sublime, with a far better companion to be honest, than the first time I heard it. Of course my life being what it always has been, one of my visitors that day had been my former lover, probably prompting my choice of music that evening.

2024 - All these years later, the now teenager hates the sound of fireworks. She loves the album though, although she always says that when she hears it, she knows it means I'm in some reflective mood. I'm absolutely terrible at rituals most of the time, and for this holiday, I'm worse about them than usual - I forget to think about seeing fireworks, I almost never attend a barbecue. But that same album is playing, as it does every Fourth of July, reminding me of days when I was younger and about the things that matter the most in life, things more important than rituals or performative nonsense that I also am terrible at. It reminds me of warm summer nights full of possibility, of the joys of watching your child be born and grow, of falling in love with the wrong person who is so right in other ways.

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