A Forty Hour Fourth of July

A Kind-of-True Story

by Kathy Coogan

You, a detective, a psychiatrist and a priest peered in to our bedroom a few days ago. My husband and I had some explaining to do. Tossed on our neatly made bed were a pinch-nosed pliers, a miner’s head-lamp, a Lakeland Boating magazine and a baseball glove. H’mmm, what goes on here?

The detective imagines someone planning a burial at sea (or lake?), at night, after murder in the bedroom with the pinched nosed pliers by the first baseman. (He deduces we’re too middle class for the crime to occur in the library with the candlestick by the butler.) The psychiatrist envisions some unfulfilled (one hopes) prop-filled fantasy being contemplated. The priest, some mortal sin? You appear confused.

You and your investigative entourage follow us further around our cozy house, where there is normally a place for everything and mostly everything is in its place. You see a tangled fishing pole on the desk, a pair of goggles on the coffee-table, a putter on the couch. You wonder at the golf balls lying amidst the blankets and pillows strewn across the carpet. Had a sports-related burglary been aborted in progress?

In the kitchen, dangerous items array every surface: boxes of donuts, bags of chips, containers of cookies, bagels and peanut-butter filled pretzels. Oooh, the cholesterol! Someone could get badly hurt in there. Michelle Obama would have had to close her eyes in horror (or sneak a bite.).

Not a crime scene. No. There is a plausible explanation. It can only mean one thing. The Kids are in Town! Chicago daughter, son-in-law and grandsons, age 10 and 6 months! Our boring, lovely home comes to life and joyfully goes to pot when C, R, B and R arrive. The kid paraphernalia provides bursts of primary color to an otherwise neutral interior. Toys, sporting equipment, games and even a few bright books embellish the décor as if a clever performance artist or circus performer had tinkered with it.

In from the car come the stroller and pack & play which we used to call a playpen. Up from the basement comes the old high chair but the potty seat will remain downstairs for a few more months. Blanket and pillows are spread in front of the TV and the baby is placed on them. He’s almost crawling and this is the safest system. He is like a campfire that we gather around to stare into.

Back to our bed. The pliers are needed to fix the fishing pole. The miner’s head- light is provided by Papa who knew it would fascinate both the big guy and the little one. The boating magazine is to educate beloved son-in-law on the glories of power-boating in the mid-west. The baseball glove is ready to play catch with the 10 year old pitcher in case he wants to show Papa his arm.

You and the detective, the shrink and the priest decide to hang around. From arrival at 3:00 pm Friday through departure at 7:00 am Sunday, forty precious hours, we: swam, played, gabbed and read around the community pool; attempted to grill dinner (chef-daughter salvaged it after a propane flare-up), ate on the patio; walked the baby around to show him off to neighbors; ate dessert; played with the baby making him laugh out loud; gabbed and yawned; told stories and said prayers with the 10 year old; slept.

Woke up; ate; had a chipping/putting competition; tried to fix the fishing pole; gave up on fishing; swam again; ate again; shot baskets with some neighbor kids; took a boat ride to downtown Cincy and back to marina (hot, hot, hot); ate dinner at Lunken Airport praising the AC like it was the 1950s; watched the planes like tourists; got ice cream; had another putting contest; walked the dog and the baby; ate the ice cream; stared at the baby in lieu of campfire; gabbed some more; told more stories and prayed again; slept; got up; had coffee; fed the boys; reversed all the stuff into the car (Papa said his usual line about Hannibal crossing the Alps with less stuff); kissed, hugged, waved good-bye; went inside so they didn’t see me cry or hear me whine about having to share them with the in-laws on this Fourth of July weekend.

In a one busy hour, the house minus the kids and the kid’s stuff is as before. You, the detective, the psychiatrist and the priest, exhausted from observing our family in action, prepare to depart.

We offer a donut or an ice cream cone. The detective accepts the donut; you and the priest enjoy some Rocky Road but the psychiatrist, who is watching her carbs, refrains from either.

You compliment our kids and grandkids, as well you should, wish us a Happy Independence Day and off you go on your separate ways, awed by the experience.

A Family Story by Patty

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