Author’s Note: My Mother-in-law, Kathy passed away this week. This story was written three years ago and has not been shared until today; I would like to dedicate it in honor of Kathy. We miss you Kathy and as you loved to celebrate Holidays, it was a warm Fourth of July morning three years ago when I realized I had so much to thank you for!! Two of those reasons are mentioned in this article. Thank you Kathy for your love, your patience and guidance but most importantly, your friendship; especially your enthusiastic support for all of my stories. I loved sharing them with you. We all love you Mom and you will live in our hearts forever.
THE FOURTH OF JULY
I woke up to the sound of my youngest child, Chloe, fussing in her basinet. She was hungry and as I rolled over in bed, I saw Stephanie sleeping peacefully. The night before (the Third of July celebration in our town) had been a long night! We had fun with our friends during our annual barbecue, we saw an incredible fireworks display over our front yard, followed by more fun into the late evening and a little cleaning up afterward until we finally fell asleep long after midnight.
So five o’clock in the morning came earlier than usual and our six-week old daughter was hungry. I quietly snuck out of bed, picked up Chloe, carried her downstairs, started to heat up her bottle and changed her diaper. As I was waiting for the bottle to warm up, I looked out the window and saw that it was turning into an absolutely glorious morning. The sun was coming up on a quiet Fourth of July, the air was warm, and you could hear the birds beginning to bring in the new day with their songs of serenity.
I wrapped Chloe in a blanket and took her out into the front yard to watch the sun come up and to listen to the peaceful calm of the morning. While I was feeding Chloe, I started to think about the days when Stephanie and I first started dating and all of the people who thought she was crazy for choosing a guy like me. Besides our five year age difference, we approached life in such different ways back then. I smirked to myself as I thought about those days. I looked at Chloe and said, “Who’d a thunk it?!”
As I watched my six-week old daughter consume her breakfast, I looked into her eyes and I was instantaneously transported back in time to those days…
I had been waiting for my friends to come over to my house so we could get the day started. The Yankee game was about to begin, I had cold beer waiting in the fridge and I was three people shy of starting to celebrate my birthday. I wasn’t a big fan of birthdays, but my friends had the philosophy that anything that we dreaded could be turned into a positive experience with good friends and a little mischief! After the year I had just had, a lot of mischief was exactly what the doctor ordered. There was a knock at the door. ‘Let the party begin!’ I thought to myself as I walked over and opened it, and there she was just standing there.
“Happy Birthday!” Stephanie shouted.
“Hi, thanks,” I responded a little perplexed. ‘What was she doing here?’ I thought to myself as I said, “Come on in, can I get you something to drink?”
“Nope, I just wanted to stop by and wish you a Happy Birthday.” She replied as she sat down on the couch. “Where is everybody?!”
“They’re running late,” I muttered as I cracked a beer. “I must admit, I am surprised to see you here.”
“It’s your birthday, isn’t it?!”
It was awkward for me at first; I wasn’t expecting Stephanie when I opened the door. My friends were late and while I was waiting for them, Stephanie and I sat there for a while talking about everything under the sun. During the course of our conversation, one of my friends called to say that he was hung over from the night before and that he would try to catch up with us later that night. Another friend got stuck at work and I had no idea where my other friend was and by now, I really didn’t care. I was right where I wanted to be and I was spending the day with exactly whom I wanted to spend the day with; Stephanie.
I don’t know when the Yankee game got changed to the movie “Modern Problems,” but it did and Stephanie and I just kept on talking and laughing as we continued to ignore the television. I wanted to lean in and kiss her but I knew it would have been a bad idea if I had. She was five years younger than I was and we were both in different places in our lives. In the fall, she was going back to college while I was heading out west to sell one of my screenplays and make a fortune in my career as a writer. And yet, we continued to talk about everything you could imagine.
It was turning into an amazing afternoon and part of me didn’t want it to end; unfortunately, it dawned on me, we had met at the wrong time. Maybe if we had met each other four or five years later, then maybe, just maybe, things could have been different. But at that particular moment in time, I had to be mature and look past the kinetic connection we seemed to be making with each other and let the moment pass for what it was; just another wonderful moment shared between two people that would never materialize into anything more than just a moment.
The phone rang and it was my friend J.J., he was finally on his way. He told me that although he had been stuck at work, I better be ready to party by the time he arrived. I hung up the phone and Stephanie knew by the tone of my voice that it was time for her to go. She stood up and fumbled for an excuse to leave. I think she told me that she was meeting her mother for dinner and she was already late.
I didn’t believe her but I knew better than to entice her to stay. I wanted to tell her what I was feeling right at that very moment but I had to suppress my feelings for her. I had to let this day come and go with the pleasant memory of what might have been rather than making the mistake of ruining our friendship.
I walked Stephanie out to her car. It was a gray, cold, and drizzly April day and despite being cold and wet, we were still talking under the little apple tree in the front yard. I knew at some point I was going to have to go back into the house and she was going to have to get into that car and go home. So rather than prolong the inevitable, I gave her a hug and as I leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek, she turned her head and kissed me on the lips with passion. And in an instant; my heart took control of the situation!
I don’t know how long we were in the front yard kissing under that apple tree but I know that I never wanted it to end. I knew that everything was about to get extremely screwed up between the both of us and I didn’t care. It was like magic; we just melted into each other. Time seemed to be standing still and all I cared about was being there in the rain, under the apple tree, kissing this amazing woman. Unfortunately, like all good things, she had to leave and our afternoon ended.
I walked Stephanie to her car, gave her one last kiss through the open window and stepped back as she drove away. I was torn between canceling the plans I had with my friends and asking her to stay. But as she drove off, I stood there silently in the rain watching her as J.J. came around the corner and honked his horn at me. And still, I just stood there watching her car drive away from me. I wanted to run after it, I wanted to make her come back, I didn’t want our time together that day to end, but it did end; with me just standing there in the rain watching her drive away…
As I sat in my front yard on that glorious Fourth of July morning, holding Chloe and reminiscing about the day I kissed Stephanie for the first time; I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“She’s beautiful,” Stephanie said to me as she leaned over my shoulder and stared at Chloe who was sleeping in my arms.
“She takes after her mother.”
“We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”
“It’s been an amazing journey. I’m glad I spent it with you.”
“Who’d a thunk it?!” she said as a shiver went down my spine.
“I’m glad we did,” I replied. “I am glad we did.”
And I am. Our story may not be the greatest American love story ever told. I am sure we won’t be featured in the great American novel or the focus of an Oscar winning movie, but it is our story. And even though we constantly took the roads less traveled over the years, we have always had each other to share those roads with and believe it or not; it truly has “made all the difference.”