More than six years later, I still panic at the thought of holidays as a widow…without Lev. Frankly, nothing can make me happy, because I want the holidays to be like they used to be–when he was alive. Joyce Carol Oates named them well–sinkholes–and the poet Elizabeth Alexander used the word in her memoir of grief as well.
The word is apt. I’m going along, everything is fine, and all of a sudden I find myself up to my neck in quicksand. With time I have learned to recognize them in advance and avoid them–most of the time. But sometimes still they sneak up on me. Like the Fourth of July. What an odd holiday to be discombobulated by.
Lev loved flying the flag. He loved wearing red, white and blue. He loved our neighborhood Fourth of July celebration. We always had friends join us for the morning flag-raising and the evening barbecue, but for whatever reason I found the very thought of the Fourth stressful after he died. I didn’t enjoy the party without him. Just the act of inviting friends to join me for the day caused major anxiety. But I did not have good options for the day.
When I came to Nantucket last year for an extended stay, I realized, “I could spend a holiday here by myself and be okay.” I would be okay in Williamsburg, too; but the summer weather is more to my liking in Nantucket. Odd–these unexpected places where I have found community. They have much in common with their history, charm and safe streets.
Every flag that flies, every red-white-and-blue outfit I see reminds me of Lev. How he would love this! But the thoughts are warm and comforting, not sad. Nothing rational about it, but grief is not rational. So I shall put on my red t-shirt and my navy pants and tie a red-white-and-blue scarf around my neck and set off Saturday morning for the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House (built in 1809), where they will read–as they do every year–the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, and then I shall watch the fun and games on Main Street and Children’s Beach. The day will end with fireworks on the beach. I look forward with keen anticipation.
Originally published July 3, 2015. One year later, much is the same, though having experienced the holiday alone here a year ago, I do not fear sinkholes. Instead, I look forward to non-stop celebration for the next 36 hours.
Photos: After-dinner stroll on July 2 up Broad Street, down Main Street and back to the hotel. Small-town America prepares to celebrate Independence Day.