Juneteenth – Part the First

21 06 2010

I am an ordinary girl.  And up until last year, I thought my birthday was an ordinary day.  Usually eclipsed by Father’s Day, and somewhere near the summer solstice (today is the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere which is tilted toward the sun), June 19th seemed to have no distinction except for a string of parties celebrating the day my mother gave me birth.

When I was a child, school was out for the summer by June 19th.  My mom didn’t bring 30 decorated cupcakes in at the end of the day while my classmates sang Happy Birthday, and my name was never written at the top right corner of the blackboard where special holidays were written in perfect teacher-writing under the date.  Still, it was a good time of year to have a party.

In late June the sun baked the midwest air until Mom relented to our whining and took the five of us swimming in Grandma’s pool.  When our lips turned blue, Grandpa coaxed us out of the water with the promise of a bowl of the ice cream of our choice from the “deep freeze” in the cellar.  Bellies full, and body temperatures lowered, we scattered over the farm for the rest of the afternoon to our favorite spots.  I usually wound up on my back in the tire swing, miraculously keeping the ice cream down as I watched the leaves of the chestnut tree circle above my head as the unwinding tire picked up speed.

Some birthdays were more memorable than others.  On my 16th Mom was out of town, so Dad was in charge.  With teenage romantic expectation I imagined a special celebration to mark such a significant day.  That evening, when Dad finally returned home from the hardware that barely kept food on our dinner table, without ceremony he simply said, “Happy Birthday,” and placed the blue sleeping bag that had been part of a camping display earlier that day in my limp hands.

Others were more festive; like the complete surprise my husband and a friend of mine planned when I turned 40.  But in my small world, that’s all June 19th ever was-my birthday.

Until last year.  When I flipped the calendar from May to June, I noticed “Juneteenth” printed in little letters at the bottom of the 19th square.

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More to come soon.  Sign up to receive an email notification (top right) when I post Part the Second.  Thanks for reading!

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