Independence Day

Eileen Sateriale

Copyright 2017 by Eileen Sateriale


Street scene in Quebec.

I remember one 4th of July when I went to visit my friend who lived in New Jersey. I made friends with her when I was in college and single. I was now visiting her and both of us were married. I was afraid of the visit not going off well because I was worried that her husband and my husband wouldn't get along.

Anne gave us detailed directions on to get to her house. Kevin and I arrived in the late afternoon like we told them we would. After several hours of traveling in the car, I was glad to get out and shake out my legs. I looked at her house. It was a small split-level ranch on the end of a cul-de-sac. I was thinking that she'd come along way from the college dorm room that she and I shared twenty something years ago.

She and Rick came out of the house and greeted us. Rick was tall and had a full beard. I had never meet Rick but I talked to him a few times over the phone.

I gave Anne a hug because I hadn't seen her in so long. "You look great," I said, as I looked at her. It felt good to feel her embrace.

She said, "I think it's been about fifteen years since we got together."

"Too long," I shook my head and stepped back so she could see my husband. "Anne, this is Kevin." Kevin nodded to her.

She stepped aside so we could get a good look at Rick. "This is Rick. Rick, Diane."

I extended my hand to Rick. "You two got married the weekend my uncle died. I had to cancel at the last minute."

She said, "When you got married Rick was finishing his MBA."

Rick extended his hand to Kevin, "That's right. That accounting class was a killer. I spent months on it." Kevin and Rick shook hands.

I laughed, "Things have changed since college."

They invited us in and showed us their house. Rick told Kevin and I about the recent kitchen renovation project. Anne said that we were the first couple to have a meal in the new kitchen. I looked around the kitchen. All the appliances were brand new. I could see the pride in Anne's face. I smiled but I was jealous that my kitchen wasn't nearly as nice.

They announced that they were cooking coq au vin for dinner. This was a nice touch since Anne and I met when we took a French class together in college. Leave it to Anne to remember.

Rick lifted the lid of the crock-pot and discovered that the chicken wasn't done. They turned up the heat and let the chicken cook a little while longer.

Anne offered us soft drinks while we were waiting. The drinks tasted refreshing to two road weary travelers who'd spent the better part of the day traveling from Virginia.

When the timer buzzed, they checked the chicken once again. Still the chicken needed more time. While we were waiting, we caught up on what we'd been doing for the past five years. They mentioned that their town was having a band concert and a fireworks display afterwards. We agreed it would be just the perfect way to celebrate the fourth of July.

The chicken was starting to smell like it was done. They opened the lid to the crock-pot and decided that dinner was ready. We sat down and ate. The food was OK. The chicken was cooked but the vegetables, now overcooked, were limp and lifeless.

Anne said, "I found the coq au vin recipe in the cookbook and since you were coming, we thought we'd try it."

I thought that if Anne and I hadn't taken that French class we probably would have had hot dogs and potato salad. "I haven't had coq au vin since that International Dinner at college. This is great." I smiled.

Anne asked, "Have you kept up on the French? I remember you and I vowed we were going to go Paris and dine on the Champs Elysses."

"Kevin and I went to Quebec City two years ago. It was fun. I never made it to Paris." I put down my fork. "Didn't you and Rick go to Europe on your honeymoon?"

Anne nodded. "We went to Spain. Rick's cousin has a job there. I bought a Lladro." Anne pointed to the figurine in the corner cabinet.

"I'm glad you got a chance to travel." I looked over at Rick and Kevin who looked like they were left out of the conversation. My gaze caught Rick's, "Anne told me you were in the military. Kevin was Air Force enlisted when we met."

Rick got up and started clearing the dirty plates. "I'm a civilian engineer working for the Army. I never enlisted."

Kevin said, "I did a little work with the Army. I spent two years on a program with General Hodge."

"Jim Hodge?"

"You know him."

"He's my boss's boss."

"I didn't know he was stationed in New Jersey."

Rick nodded. "I'll mention that I met you.

Kevin said, "Ask him about the TDY to Rock Island when you see him. It was one fun trip."

"I can imagine, Jim makes TDYs a real party." Rick laughed.

Anne reached over and touched my hand, "Small world. Let's go into the living room."

Rick looked at Anne and said, "Good idea." Anne and I went into the living room and sat down on the couch.

I looked at the CD player sitting in the corner of the room and said to Anne, "Do you listen to John Denver, anymore?"

Anne held her hand over her face and whispered. "I used to but Rick didn't really like him so I don't even own a John Denver CD."

I grimaced. "Funny but every time I hear 'Thank God I'm a Country Boy,' I think of you. I remember you couldn't get enough of John Denver."

"I haven't listened to him in years." Anne looked at the TV set. "I remember you were such a hockey fan. Do you follow the Washington team?"

I shook my head. "I pretty much gave up on hockey the day Bobby Orr retired. Every once in a while, we watch the Capitals, but it's not the same."

"Bobby was your obsession."

"Kevin thinks he still is." I chuckled. "I've moved on."

Anne said, "Kevin's a nice guy. I'm glad he and Rick are talking." Anne looked towards the kitchen and we could hear the two men talking.

I patted her hand. "It sounds like they've got things in common. I was a bit nervous coming here for fear the guys wouldn't get along."

"I know."

I relaxed now that the men were conversing. I looked at Anne and she seemed happy. I was a bit in shock about the fact that she didn't listen to John Denver anymore but then again, Bobby Orr was history as far as I was concerned.

After dinner, we left to go to the band concert. We rode in their car as they where they were going. On the way they gave us a mini-tour and told of all the things they did in their community. We parked the car as close as we could get and it was still a quarter mile walk. Families were schlepping coolers and lawn chairs to the gazebo. Eventually, we arrived there and found a suitable spot to put down a blanket near the bandstand and still be able to see the fireworks.

The band started playing "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." I looked at Anne who looked away, smiling. When the announcer asked for everyone to sing, Rick gestured to us, "Sing along. I knew you liked Denver in college."

Anne said, "I lost interest when you told me what a wimp he was."

"I wish I hadn't said that. Go ahead, sing. They want everyone to sing."

Anne and I stood up and started singing. We locked arms and did a chorus line kick like we did in college. When the song was over we sat with the guys on the blanket.

Rick said to me, "I heard you liked hockey. I watch a Devils game every once in a while."

"That was back in college."

"Anne said you liked Bobby Orr." I nodded. He said, "I was a fan of his for a while."

Kevin said, "When I met Diane, she was obsessed with Bobby Orr. I liked the Great Gretzky."

Anne clasped her hands together and stretched them out in front of her, "Wayne was a great player. I agree, Kevin."

I said, "To me, Wayne can't take the place of Bobby."

Rick said, "You're right."

I didn't say anything else. My husband and Anne liked Gretzky and Rick and I liked Orr. This could go on all night.

Kevin nudged Rick, "Do you follow the Giants?"

Anne said, "Do we ever. Rick never misses a Giants game." Rick and Kevin talked about the Giants for a while and Anne and I talked about college and life while listening to the music.

I moved closer to Anne. "Do you hear from Mary Pat?"

Anne answered tersely, "No."

"You and she were such good friends."

"That was then. Her husband and Rick didn't get along."
I looked over at Rick and thought to myself, who could not get along with such a sweetheart like him. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"He had no use for the Army and they got into a big fight. I called Mary Pat a week later but she implied it was Rick's fault. After that we never heard from them. Not even a Christmas card. I have no clue what they are doing or even if they are together."

I gasped. "I never would have guessed."

"She was the maid of honor at my wedding. I was the matron of honor for her."

"Really? You and I didn't even go to each other's wedding and we stayed friends."

Anne said, "That's the way it goes." Anne glanced over at the guys. "By the way, Kevin's a dream. I'm so happy that he and Rick are getting along."

"Anne, you don't know how happy I am."

"Kevin's the perfect guy for you."

I glanced over at the bandstand knowing Anne was right. The band played all the usual patriotic songs--America the Beautiful, Stars and Stripes and God Bless America. When the band demanded audience participation so the four of us sang along. At eleven thirty, the band packed up and the fireworks began. I glanced at Kevin who was yawning after a full day of driving.

We watched the fireworks burst and the many colors that came out of each burst. Red, pink, orange, yellow, blue green purple, white. Over and over, we listened to the sounds as we covered our middle aged ears. "Pop, pop, pop, psssssh, boom! Rick put his arm around Anne and I stood next to Kevin. I saw Kevin smiling as he watched the bursts.

Then it was over and we went back to their house. We spent the night and left the next morning. I know that we all had a great time and Anne and I vowed that we'd get together soon. In one way, it was Independence Day; in another way, it was friendship day. 

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