Hot dogs and marinated chicken sizzled on the grill in muggy-white heat. Fourteen people migrated through the screen door – some sat in the kitchen and dining room, sipping beer and wine, while others wandered around the yard, watching children soar on the swingset glider.

We were a motley crew: a recent divorcee with her two children, a long-married couple with their two children, another couple, their decades-old relationship on the rocks, also with two kids, and us, a family of five on shaky ground. I’d already had one “it’s over” conversation at the time but hadn’t made a definitive decision.

That was July 4th last year. I made so many salads and trays of vegetables and hummos that the table almost didn’t hold it all. I prayed for rain just to have a story to fit what I was feeling. If my then-husband had been standing over the barbecue with sheets of pin-pricking rain coming down, it would have been fitting.

This year, we are doing nothing for July 4th. Well, not nothing – my children and I are together and tonight, I will take us all to my parents’ house to eat dinner in celebration of my father’s 70th birthday. We will have a peaceful day, lit by cool sun and ice-blue sky.

Fireworks have been popping all over the neighborhood, while our nights have been characterized by laissez-faire lounging and lots of hugs. I am reading Gulliver’s Travels to Asher.

Last night, we picnicked in Ann Arbor at Top of the Park, listening to a Celtic band while the children ran on the lawn. Asher wanted to join a group of children he didn’t know so he went over, introduced himself, and in a minute was circling and smiling alongside them.

Life can be easy.

This is one of my summer vacation weeks with the children. The weekend is filled with celebrations for my father and on Sunday, the children and I will drive southwest to a farm b&b to meet friends for four days. I can already taste the mountain-morning coffee.

I always said I liked to hike but in my former life I didn’t do much of it. It was the kind of activity reserved for an unusual vacation, a once-in-a-great-while type of thing.

Now, I am brushing the dust off my book of Michigan hikes with an intention to make it a part of my new life. Next weekend, when the children go to their father, I will take to the hills.

Maybe it’s a desire to attain elevation. Maybe I want to just feel the exhilaration of sweat trickling along my skin and know that nothing, no one, prevents me from climbing high.


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