On Thursday, the Fourth of July, I went out in the afternoon on my own about twice as far as I’ve been going. And I was fine.
I went to the Fourth of July Festival in Memorial Park, a big, yearly event here in Claremont. There are games, booths set up by community organizations, a speakers corner, live music and food prepared by various clubs. More than anything, more than Independence Day, more than the U.S of A and patriotism and all that, it is about community. It’s the kind of event where you see people you haven’t seen all year or in years.
Then I saw the parade, which sets off at the park after the festival ends. The Claremont 4th of July parade is a hokey, small-town affair, with kids and families on bikes, vintage cars, homemade floats. But – arguably for this reason – it is a cherished tradition, with thousands of people lining the streets, cheering and waving. I snagged a great, shady spot near the beginning of the route, across from the announcer. (This was a bit of luck, since people set out chairs and blankets days beforehand.)
I hadn’t gone to these two events – two events that are critical in the life of the Claremont community - in the last two years, since my spinal surgery. Attending them felt very important, and, indeed, although I arrived at the festival as it was about to wrap up, I found myself moved. This was an important moment, like another coming out. I was taking another step out, back into the community and back into my life, into my life. It also felt important, perhaps more important, that I get there on my own. I felt I had to do this myself, without help, without being dropped off like I was being allowed to go.And in a few days, I’ll be traveling north to the Bay Area (one attendant will fly with me and the other will drive my van) for nine days. In addition to this being my longest trip since my surgery, I will be attending Pacific Yearly Meeting about an hour north in beautiful rural Marin County while I’m up there. I was not able to attend for the last two years, and it will be another big step out, back into community and life.