Wednesday, July 4, 2012

first the third then the fourth

me & my beautiful mommy at guru's birthday brunch
provo is the most festive fourth of july city i know of.  people go nuts here.  our neighborhood is be-flagged.  every home has an american flag planted in the front yard by the local boy scouts, put up in the early morning and taken down in the evening.  hot air balloons are launched in early morning, we have a big parade that closes down many neighborhoods and streets, and the evening brings stadium of fire--a massive affair with musical acts and fireworks.  tonight's act is the beach boys.

many families hold their reunions around the fourth as out-of-towners like to come for the festivities.  our reunion is always held on the 3rd in Midway, so my birthday is always a holiday of sorts.  (i may have an overblown sense of importance since my mom told me how my birth was accompanied by fireworks.)

yesterday, my mom, sisters and daughters had birthday brunch at guru's.

ingrid is the baked good queen at exoskeleton.  birthday watercolor by moses.
ingrid stayed up all night baking--birthday shortbread with fresh apricot puree and toasted pecans, cakes and mini-cupcakes for my sister hilary's wedding reception tomorrow night, and birthday peanut butter m&m cookies in a hand-decoupaged tin for my birthday present.

is eva becoming a farmer?
eva and anna came to midway for the reunion bearing this breathtaking basket of produce, honeycomb, chicken and duck eggs from the urban homestead they're living in right now in salt lake city.

uncle tom's teepee, fire in alpine.
uncle tom's, where the reunion is always held, is an amazing place.  he has gardens, animals, and, the kids' favorite, a golf-cart they can drive around the property. here's the tee-pee against the backdrop of a huge blaze in alpine, utah that started yesterday.  this whole state is on fire.

annual whitaker family reunion cakewalk.  c. playing harmonium in the background.
every year aunt bonnie makes cakes and flower crowns & c. brings his harmonium for a cake walk.  this year moses won.  he ran up to me with his cake, "isn't this the coolest looking cake you've ever seen?  aren't you so proud of me for winning?"  i was.

sample one: sasha and eve
here's a small sampling of (a few of) my nieces, visiting from out of town.

sample two:  ruby and baby lara
my nieces and nephews are extra adorable and brilliant, as you can see.

slopping the pigs
before leaving the reunion, we slopped the pigs and visited the (on-site) cowboy museum.  uncle tom has an intense relationship with cowboy culture, having started the heber cowboy poetry festival which has now become a major national event.

trying to get evie to give me a little birthday kiss
the day ended with a baskin & robbins ice cream cake from c., who knows what i love (i'll be spending my williams sonoma gift card from him today), fries and onion rings from stan's with katie, and working up my duet with kristin (a michael jackson song. . . .)

this fourth of july poem by gregory djanikian will give you a small sense of how i feel in provo in the hardcore patriot season here.  i sometimes feel like an immigrant here--somewhat baffled by the weeping and waving, but also intrigued and amused.

and, because this poem is in what i would call the billy collins school, more narrative & expository than poetic, i almost don't wanna put it up.  but it's apropos, so i will.  it will be fleetingly expressive of a momentary emotion.

Immigrant Picnic

It's the Fourth of July, the flags
are painting the town,
the plastic forks and knives
are laid out like a parade.

And I'm grilling, I've got my apron,
I've got potato salad, macaroni, relish,
I've got a hat shaped   
like the state of Pennsylvania.

I ask my father what's his pleasure
and he says, "Hot dog, medium rare,"
and then, "Hamburger, sure,   
what's the big difference,"   
as if he's really asking.

I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,   
slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,
uncap the condiments. The paper napkins   
are fluttering away like lost messages.

"You're running around," my mother says,   
"like a chicken with its head loose."

"Ma," I say, "you mean cut off,
loose and cut off   being as far apart   
as, say, son and daughter."

She gives me a quizzical look as though   
I've been caught in some impropriety.
"I love you and your sister just the same," she says,
"Sure," my grandmother pipes in,
"you're both our children, so why worry?"

That's not the point I begin telling them,
and I'm comparing words to fish now,   
like the ones in the sea at Port Said,   
or like birds among the date palms by the Nile,
unrepentantly elusive, wild.   

"Sonia," my father says to my mother,
"what the hell is he talking about?"
"He's on a ball," my mother says.
"That's roll!" I say, throwing up my hands,
"as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll...."

"And what about roll out the barrels?" my mother asks,
and my father claps his hands, "Why sure," he says,
"let's have some fun," and launches   
into a polka, twirling my mother   
around and around like the happiest top,   

and my uncle is shaking his head, saying
"You could grow nuts listening to us,"   

and I'm thinking of pistachios in the Sinai
burgeoning without end,   
pecans in the South, the jumbled
flavor of them suddenly in my mouth,
wordless, confusing,
crowding out everything else.


  1. GREAT poem. I love the phrase "like the happiest top." I wish we were around so much family. Sounds like a great event, that reunion. And I'm already sad I'll be missing 24th of July festivities.

  2. I agree -- great poem, indeed. Happy belated birthday, Lara! You deserve fireworks wherever you be...

    besos y abrazos, amiga!