Baby, you’re a firework.

Like the rest of the humans, we watched Hamilton over the holiday weekend. My Guy and I lounged in air-conditioned comfort, ate ice cream, and got our culture on while our neighbors attempted to blow up 27,463 fireworks.

Our street is peopled by packs of school-aged kids. During this weird, pandemic-y time, they hit the street mid-afternoon, riding bikes, yelling, throwing random projectiles, and generally living their best lives. The parents stand in the driveways and avail themselves to adult beverages. We all need to do what we need to do in this crazy time, right?

This Fourth of July, the youngsters and their adult keepers had an amazing time. There were sparklers and spinners and wangdoodles and hoozaboppers and a gazillion other kid-friendly fireworks that I can only dream of. The street seemed to be gathered in the dark, next door to us, living it up.

We stayed inside, shocked and awed that none of the dogs seemed bothered by the hubbub. We watched Hamilton.

As a former theatre major, I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much about the show. I knew a few songs. And obviously I knew how it ended. But the in-between? Not so much.

Spoiler alert to a 220-year-old story: Hamilton and his wife lost a child. Their adult-ish oldest son was killed.

I was not prepared for this.

I think there were like 25 minutes of the show left after that. I cried through all of it. Ugly, couldn’t-stop crying.

I decided I was just overtired. I took half an Advil PM. I did some sun salutations, which calmed me considerably. But once I stopped, I started crying all over again. My inner monologue wasn’t terribly calm or kind. It jumped between “What in the name of Lin-Manuel Miranda is wrong with me?” and “I just want some fucking cereal! Why don’t we have any cereal?”

The next day, I put it all together.

We were hiding in our house because we didn’t really belong with the families blowing shit up in the street. Not that we wouldn’t have been welcome, but … it wasn’t our scene.

This year, Independence Day felt bittersweet. Everything is terrible. But our country is young, scrappy, and hungry. And I went ahead and made potato salad anyway.

When I was a kid, the Fourth of July was a holiday when I felt like the rest of the world was on a boat or at a fabulous party. And I suppose I felt that this weekend, too. Except the fabulous party was next door, setting stuff on fire. And it wasn’t that we don’t have a boat, but that we don’t have children.

Watching Alexander and Eliza mourn their son ripped something open in me. It surprised me. I can’t say it was welcome. It reminded me that grief is like your broke-ass cousin Randy who shows up when you least expect him, hands out, making demands.

No, Randy, I’m not gonna “loan” you a twenty.

I wish I were independent of heartache. But I suppose that would mean I wasn’t alive. I suppose the sting means I’m fully immersed in life, even though I was hiding from the party.

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  • Reply Sherilee July 7, 2020 at 1:27 am

    Oh my heart, Becky. Yes to all of this. Thank you for sharing the the realness of your grief, which is so much like my actual cousin Randy. How did you know?

    • Reply Becky Brown July 7, 2020 at 1:46 am

      Sherilee, this made me guffaw. Dammit, Randy!

      And, you know, hugs to you. Thanks for your kind words.

  • Reply Karen (formerly kcinnova) July 7, 2020 at 5:04 am

    Ooof. It’s the death of dreams and people, and so not fair to feel like you don’t belong.

    And thanks for the warning, because I haven’t seen it yet, don’t know any songs, and am hoping to watch and cry next weekend.

    • Reply Becky Brown July 7, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      Pro tip: Turn on the subtitles. And get some Kleenex.

  • Reply Lee Gaitan July 7, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    Becky, this is a gorgeous, heart-piercing piece of writing. Grief is exactly like that broke-ass cousin, shows up uninvited and overstays its welcome. You are such an amazing writer that even while sharing the rawness of pain you bring a laugh to the part. Wangdoodle! i just love you!

    • Reply Becky Brown July 7, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      Oh, Lee. Thank you. Your words are a gift. I love you, too!

  • Reply Ernie July 8, 2020 at 3:58 am

    I have yet to see Hamilton- hopefully soon. So sorry that the movie (or is it still considered a play?) and the neighbor gathering brought all this to the surface for you. Heaet breaking. It is a cruel world.

  • Reply Kari Wagner Hoban July 8, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    Oh, friend, I get this even if I don’t ACTUALLY get this. But I cried along with this post.
    If you lived in my neighborhood, I would drag your ass out of the house.
    Also, I would be the neighbor who would ask to come in and watch Hamilton with you because I am too cheap to buy the Disney + subscription.


  • Reply Melissa July 8, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Oh. I cannot imagine how that ripped you.
    And yeah, that scene when his son dies, but then the following song about forgiveness–I STILL ugly cry and I’ve listened to the soundtrack eleventy-thousand times AND saw it live, but when I watched it on TV I cried all over again.
    Grief is exactly that cousin. Perfect analogy.

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