Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sky Rockets in Flight

            Treehouse guest Charles wrestled his way through Williams College and now coaches high school wrestling. He’s also an English teacher starting a new job in Boston next month near his girlfriend Alexis, who joined him in our lofty perch.
            These Midwesterners brought their affability with them to the east as well as their affinity for sports. Sure, they wanted to have a romantic, relaxing time for a few days (and Charles did relax on the deck with his laptop), but the World Cup was on, and Argentina was playing Switzerland. Alexis was born in the USA, but her parents moved to the Chicago area from Argentina. We all know whom she was rooting for.
             We gathered around the television to watch, chatting and nibbling hummus and crackers. After Argentina’s victory (and an excited phone call to Alexis’s parents), the two drove up the river to a pretty swimming hole on the New Haven for a dip on this hot first day of July. They were back in time to catch Belgium whupping the USA. But by that time we had uncorked a bottle of chilled white, which soothed our disappointment.
            After two nights aloft, our new friends Charles and Alexis packed up to head back to Boston. Charles went to his car, brought out six packages of sky lanterns and handed them to us as a thank-you for hosting them. I had seen videos of these beautiful little hot air balloons being launched at festivals in Thailand but had never witnessed them in person. We were invited to a huge party at a Lincoln neighbor’s house for July 4th, and I brought the lanterns to launch over their pond.
            The Danforths (of Danforth Pewter) have a pot luck picnic with volleyball, swimming and sparklers every Independence Day because it’s also Fred Danforth’s birthday. He thought the sky lanterns were a great idea.
            It was a cool evening and people gathered around the fire pit, watched children run across the mowed grass, feasted at the food tables, and filled their cups at the keg. Over a hundred neighbors and local politicians were there, and we are always delighted to be included among the invitees. 
           Everyone contributes something—a dish to share, a bottle of wine, some fireworks, and sparkling conversation. This year I baked an almond cake with fresh cherries, and just after dark H and I lit the sky lanterns. It took a minute to ignite the first one and we were a little awkward with making sure to hold the paper away from the flame and wait for the air to heat inside the balloon, which took longer than expected because of the night chill. But then the lantern rose gracefully from our fingers. It sailed up over the volleyball net, over Fred’s new barn frame, higher yet over the trees and off toward Mount Abraham.
            Suddenly children and guests surrounded us, all wanting to help light a lantern. We pulled the other five from their wrappers and got them going. When the lanterns were aloft, we stood looking up at their beauty. Someone started singing happy birthday to Fred and everyone joined in as we watched the lanterns float higher and then vanish over the treetops.
            On this Independence Day weekend, H and I feel grateful to live in this country, even if we didn’t do too well in the World Cup. We’re grateful for quality Treehouse guests like Charles and Alexis, for fine friends, and for our good fortune to live in such a gorgeous place.

            So happy birthday, Fred. And happy birthday, America!

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