Important things always happen to me on 4th of July. I have no idea why this is, but I can trace revelations or crucial events in my life by summers, measuring each one by what was happening on or around Independence Day. Maybe the Founding Fathers are all like, “Yo, Jess is a history buff, let’s make her have existential crises on our nation’s birthday.” To which I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.”
July 4th, 2004
After much debate, my Dad and his new girlfriend decided to take my sister, best friend and I to see fireworks at Dorney Park in Allentown, PA. I was born just outside of Allentown and lived there until I was 12, so I have this intense connection to it. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I lie in bed and try to remember all of the rooms in my old house, how the walls were painted, the angle of the furniture, the way my bedroom smelled. I have such a nostalgic affection for it, and so in 2004, with my parents newly divorced and dating other people, it felt appropriate that we would go back to Allentown for the final time. We were seeing fireworks and celebrating our nation’s independence, but it also felt like I was starting this new chapter in my life where Allentown had no place. Parts of me would always be rooted there, but with my Dad’s engagement to his girlfriend in the weeks that would follow, and me starting to think about colleges and life beyond my quaint suburban existence, July 4, 2004 marked this strange departure from the line of thinking that incorporated only safe and fair thoughts. I was looking beyond my tiny world. I was getting closure on my parents’ divorce, and trying to accept the fact that though things would be different from then on, they wouldn’t necessarily be worse.
July 4th, 2005
The summer before senior year I took a class at UC Berkeley for six weeks; I won’t go into the particulars, because I have so many times before, but it was the single best experience of my life thus far. I was only 17 years old. I met my two best friends there and spent six weeks just fucking around in California, doing drugs, taking a college course, getting my nose pierced, hooking up with weird European guys. For a teenaged girl from Philadelphia, it was heaven. The 4th of July was the first day I met anyone from the program. We all ended up taking the BART to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to see fireworks over the San Francisco Bay. Almost all of the people I was with were from foreign countries, so we had a hard time communicating with each other, especially since we were drunk by 7pm. Though I spent a good chunk of my summers in San Francisco over the years, I wore a skirt and tanktop to the wharf, forgetting that it would become fucking freezing by nightfall. My soon-to-be best friend Ali offered me her sweatshirt, and I snidely turned it down. I am not good at meeting new people. I come off way bitchier than I intend to, or than I actually am. I’m just nervous and shy and guarded. Soon after we met again through our mutual friend Ana, who would become my other best friend, and bonded over our parents’ divorces in the movie theatre on Shattuck before seeing “Me & You & Everyone We Know.” But the 4th of July is the official anniversary of meeting my best friends.
July 4th, 2006
I didn’t get to celebrate in 2006, because I was on an airplane from Newark to Paris with my family and my friend Meg. Our flight left late at night on the 3rd and didn’t get into Paris until after the 4th was over. The beginning of the trip marked probably one of the most essential changes of my life. I was in Paris, and then at my faux-Grandparents’ villa in Tuscany, and I was miserable. I missed my boyfriend, I was sad for no reason, I couldn’t stop reading Bret Easton Ellis! Two weeks later in a Rome hotel room I drank a bottle of champagne and had a nervous breakdown. When I came home I had an anxiety attack that landed me in the hospital. And then I went on antidepressants. The rest is history, as they say, but the fucking Fourth of July keeps changing my life.
July 4, 2007
Last year was less existential and more just plain enjoyable. I was living in LA for the summer with Ana, and we took her car to Mulholland with our friend Kira, and got drunk and watched fireworks explode all over the valley. It was fucking beautiful. Then we saw that awful Kerri Russell movie “Waitress.” I hadn’t seen a movie drunk since I was in high school and it was bizarre. It was also one of the last weeks I spent in LA. I haven’t been back to California since.
And this year? Well, my pot dealer isn’t calling me back - he must be in the Hamptons for the holiday - so I am going to get drunk on a rooftop, and hopefully make out with someone. It will probably be Josh. Bring it on, Alexander Hamilton.