Expectation-free 'vacation'

We've just passed by another July 4, which means that Voyages in America just turned two years old. We memorialised 300 posts pretty well, I thought, so we won't get too weepy here, but I figured it'd be remiss to not at least reference this day.

I'm writing this post well ahead of time because I'm trying to put myself in the best position imaginable get some distance from my laptop over the long holiday weekend. Senor MacBook Pro and I spend a lot of time together. Some might say, too much. LP and I are also going to spend the long weekend in Grass Valley, LP's hometown, where the wireless Internet flows less abundantly.

My first blog, two years ago on Independence Day, was about trying to get myself into another country's holidays and in the process falling short and feeling left out. Last year I was in a small town snoozing and eating hot dogs.

Our day plan for the 4th this year is as follows: go to the Yuba river in Grass Valley, about as idyllic a summer setting as you could imagine, lie about in the sun and swim a while, then go and see White House Down. Reviews be damned, that film hits all of my action-movie sweet spots: a vaguely Die Hard-ish premise, wisecracking leads and a fictional president recast as an action hero.

The day might just involve Taco Bell, too. I don't know though, I'm not psychic.  

LP's dad will be in Grass Valley. Curiously enough, everyone else in her family, her mother and brothers, are going to be in Montana, where LP usually goes each year to celebrate the holiday with her extended family. Her dad couldn't get away from work. LP herself, being limited to the 15 days of annual leave her company offers her, decided to stay closer to home and stockpile her days off.

Rather than feeling left out of the holiday, the beauty of having an empty, slow day with no reason to do (or acknowledge) anything is starting to sink in.

When you emigrate you have all of these traditions - Christmas, Easter, birthdays - which you need to switch up. It's hard to replace the old ways quickly and these days tend to lend themselves to over-comparison and homesickness.

Is an American Christmas better than a New Zealand Christmas? Is a birthday as good if you can't see old friends and family?

For LP, this past week, as her family has convened without her in Montana and she's kept in touch with them and stayed keyed in on all of the internal dynamics and goings-on, it is evident that she's felt a little on the outs. It was her decision not to go and one that she's ultimately happy with, but second thoughts are inevitable when you decide to break with tradition like that. She'll miss being there. She's got a pretty fun family.

This July 4 will probably be an anomaly for LP, a patch on other years. The same with her Dad too, I bet. For them, the day brings with it a whole weight of cultural muscle memory, nostalgia and expectation.

The Independence Day holiday doesn't carry any such baggage for me. Or, it doesn't yet. I'm going to sleep in, go swimming, catch some sun, watch a movie, come home and drink a beer and fall asleep about as content as one man can be with his lot in life.

So it's OK that the day doesn't really mean anything to me. As much as I appreciate the American origin story, Independence Day in my mind is a movie before it is a holiday. The day itself could simply be referred to as "generic midsummer day off" (for that measure, Thanksgiving could be renamed "late autumn day where I grossly overeat during a big meal with LP's family").

The blanks will inevitably be filled in. I know that. LP and I will have a family and we'll develop our own group July 4 routines and before I know it, I'll probably care deeply about the day and look forward to it in a more genuine and real way than I do now.

But there's a liberation in realising that, for now, the day is what I want to make of it. There's no sadness in not being able to feign the same connection and attachment as the locals.

I choose now instead to focus on the giddy rush of a simple day off. It's not my country. I don't have to get too worked up about celebrating its birthday.

And from a relationship point, it's easy. I'm happy to go wherever LP wants, so long as I get to put my feet up and sleep in.

I used to see July 4 as a day that emphasised my difference here. Now I just see it as kind of empty and brilliant for me. It's great.    

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