1The Fourth of July, once again, literally went out with a bang! Fireworks, both with and without permits (it is, I believe, illegal to ignite fireworks without a permit, even on one's own property, in Austin city limits,) were lighting up the skies as soon the sun dipped down on to the hilltops.
Of course, we had to have the third before the fourth, and that was an unexpected day off from the office. My sarcastic gene gets to work overtime on this particular holiday, as I am asked, with regularity, the same question each year. "Do you have the Fourth of July in England?" This year's answer was, "No, we have the third and the fifth and wonder what on earth to call the day in between". It is then, and only then, that the recognition of 'divided by a common language' comes into play, and the question is asked in a different way. "Do you celebrate the Fourth of July". Once again, this year, I was able to answer in a different way as to my usual stark answer, (which usually takes them through the battle for independence, and the fact that the story over here is portrayed as the Brits leaving with their proverbial tails between their legs,) and replied, "1776. The original Brexit!"
Samantha and I decided to make the most of our additional day off, and chose to spend it, in part, in the tradition 'winter' national holiday mode. We went to Ikea! She had booked her car in for a service, and I picked her up from the rather large establishment that sits on the frontage road of the Interstate. I was slightly late leaving my house. I had completed my Monday tasks, and had plenty of time, but got a little carried away with some extra-curricular activities, to wit, (still) sorting out pictures for my 'holiday' wall! I drove to the exit and was in the wrong lane. I am one of the many (and apparently I am in the majority) who cannot, in an instant, tell my left from my right. I still use my left thumb and index finger to make an 'L' shape for confirmation. (I only wish I knew this method before my kids learnt it at school!) "Stay in the right hand lane", said Samantha, when she called to find out my progress. I continued in the left hand lane, believing it to be the correct lane, as I was 'looping' around. As I approached the lights, she said, "No, I mean left". I changed lanes automatically, without considering that I was already in the left hand land, and as I crossed over on the bridge, realised my mistake. "I've missed my turn", I shouted into the phone, which was upon my lap, legally in loudspeaker mode! Fortunately, the road upon which I was now travelling, was wide, and empty, and I 'U-turned' without much difficulty. After negotiating the roadworks, I turned into the car lot and espied my daughter.
After not purchasing anything other than the obligatory hot dog, we left the Swedish warehouse and went to a couple of other regular haunts. Samantha had asked if we would quickly go to the mall, as she had one stop she wanted to make, and "seeing as we are almost there", we did. The service department manager called to say her car was ready, but they did have a recommendation on a couple of things, that would take a lot more time, and of course cost a lot more than anticipated. She asked my opinion, and then called Edward to ask his. As everything was 'precautionary', and would probably not be essential for another six months, she opted out of the 'extras' and attempted to call back. The line was busy for quite some time, and finally she asked me to try, as she disappeared into the changing room of the one shop that she wished to visit. The service manager answered as she turned the corner out of sight. "Hello, I am Samantha's mum', I said, feeling as if I was somehow taking away any authority my daughter had gained. "Yeah, guessed that from the accent", was his reply. I told him that she had opted out of the 'extras', and would have them done another time. He did not belabour the issue, for which I was most grateful. With my sarcastic gene working overtime, I am not sure he would have survived the onslaught!
We headed back to get the car. "Stay in this lane", said Samamtha, as we traveled along the frontage road. "Should have been in the other lane", she quipped as I ended up on the same road where I had previously done the U-turn. This time it was not quite as empty, and I had to drive for a while before finding a gap to take the initiative. There were no signs to say I was not able to perform the U-turn, but this is not England, and U-turns are not the norm! My car was most obliging and we headed in the correct direction. The newly serviced car was collected. The service manager had commented that he loved Samantha's accent, and had asked, in the way people here ask, "Where did you get it?" Oh the variety of answers that could be given, but my daughter chose to be gracious! It was a time for peace, not to continue the transatlantic battle of yesteryear! We headed, separately, to my house, and took up residence by the pool. Another couple joined us, with their friends, and I spent the afternoon reading and swimming. Samantha left and Dana came home from the office, and joined me for about half an hour. I made a spaghetti carbonara for dinner, and then, in true family tradition, said 'goodbye' to 56! I fell asleep shortly before midnight. I had received a note from the ladies next door, to say that they were having a 'birthday celebration get together' with a few friends, and hoped they would not disturb us. We heard nothing, and I wondered if the party was cancelled or if the venue had been changed!
My birthday arrived, and I duly said 'hello' to my new age. Dana and I headed out to Mozart's, our usual haunt for my birthday, when we are not 'out of town', and had coffee and croissants by the lake. Frank waddled along the wooden slats, with half a dozen helium balloons attached to his harness, being closely followed by Samantha, who was trying to stop him from knocking into all and sundry, due to his excitement at spotting his 'extended' family. "No, it's hers", I heard her say when asked, "Is it the dog's birthday"!
Dana took Frank home, and we stayed for a while just enjoying the lazy atmosphere. When we finally arrived back at the condo, I set about making some Viennese Whirls and Jaffa Cakes, which I planned to take to Michele, my nail technician, so that she could 'taste the show' that she had started to watch! It did not take long, and by one o'clock, we were at the pool! Alone for the longest time, we just lazed in true holiday fashion. We were joined a little while later by some neighbours, all of whom wished me birthday felicitations, as Samantha had chosen to take one of the balloons to the pool and tied it to my chair! The flowers and other birthday accessories, including my birthday princess sash, remained in the condo!
Edward had to work on Tuesday, but came home early and we all enjoyed a fine repast at a local restaurant, which was surprisingly empty! Despite the 'main day' being on a Tuesday, it appeared that a lot of people had left town for the unofficial long weekend!
I met one of the ladies next door and asked if the party was a success, and thanked her for the note. She seemed a little nervous and asked if we had been disturbed at all, by the noise. I admitted that we had not heard a thing, and that I was wondering if it had actually taken place. She was relieved! Not only had it taken place, but it was quite a gathering!
Joe and Gail were at the coffee shop, on Wednesday, and were quite happy to be participants in the results of my Great British Bake Off, and ate the offerings I provided with gusto. I left shortly after eight thirty, and headed to have my nails painted. The roads were relatively empty. It appeared that the long weekend had turned into a long week for most Austinites, and I wondered if it would spill over into our work load!
Michele seemed to be quite excited at the prospect of sampling the wares I had brought and we chatted about the next episode of the show, which she had seen, but I had not. "Why do they call it a pudding?", she asked, when referring to the batter that is baked into a 'Yorkshire pudding'. I could not give a definitive answer!
Work was not particularly gruesome, although we were busy enough to keep us occupied for the following three days. I arrived at the office on Wednesday morning, to a chorus of Happy Birthday, and a fabulous cake made by my daughter. Streamers and banners decorated my already decorated office, and the good wishes were abundant from all who entered the lair that is 'my room'. I also managed to leave a little after five, as I did each day this week, and went swimming after work, and even managed to read a little!
Finally, Friday arrived and having worked three days, I was rather surprised at how slowly it took for the weekend to arrive! I drove home, leaving Dana at the office, and took my bag down to the pool. A couple of neighbours were there and we exchanged pleasantries. After my swim, I sat down and took out my book. A large drop of water hit my arm, shortly followed by another. The sun was shining, and I wondered if someone was splashing me from above! "Looks like we have the only cloud in the sky overhead", said one of the lads who were my current pool friends. At that, the cloud burst, and the rain poured. On of my friends took cover but the other one, not wanting to be outdone by a woman, especially after I had said, "I am not giving up", stayed to take the strain. After a minute or two, the second lad shouted, "ouch, that stings", and headed for the cover of the trees. I took my towel and covered myself, whilst continuing to read. Ten minutes later, the rain stopped, and normality was resumed. "Well, we made it!" said the lad who had attempted to remain in his seat. "We did", I said, graciously!
Saturday was very hot. Although the temperature did not hit 100, the humidity was exceptionally high, and we felt rather zapped going from the car to the store, and back again. After our usual rounds we took up residency by the pool, and while Samantha floated on her giant cow, I started my new book! I remember thinking to myself, how this has become quite the norm, but reminded myself that I must never take for granted my ability to just lounge by the pool at will!
The storm did not bring forth rain over our patch. However, it was loud, and I advised my daughter to vacate the water, as the rumbles of thunder were panoramic! We were in the centre of the crashes, and the dark cloud looked rather foreboding. For about thirty minutes, we heard a continuing roll of thunder, although we did not see the skies light at all. The week had started with fireworks and was ending the same way, albeit one manufactured, and one natural.
After Samantha left, Dana joined me. It was the first time he had met our new neighbours, who had also come to the pool, and the ladies, all of whom have only just advanced to their first quarter of a century, were more than happy to visit with their older counterparts! I asked how the birthday girl had enjoyed her party, and she responded that it was fun. She asked how I had enjoyed mine, and I said that the birthday was great, but I did not have a party. I told her that my birthday was fun, but quiet, "My wild days are over", I said, slightly tongue-in-cheek. One of their friends, a young man, commented, "And now you are enjoying your twilight years?" As the girls all took a sharp intake of breath, I smiled and simply said, "Not quite yet".
My birthday coupons are still being used, and I accepted a large piece of cake from the restaurant on Saturday evening, albeit in a take out box!
Hopefully, the coming week will not have fireworks of any sort. I am ready for a slightly less erratic tempo, be it meteorological or work related. Perhaps the young lad at the pool who made the 'twilight' comment was more accurate than I cared to admit, although wanting a little plain sailing does not a senior make! There is still so much to look forward to this year. A trip home, a visit from my grandchildren, and of course ........... another story!