The last Independence Day I really celebrated was in 2012 in Tacoma, Washington. I spent it with my then boyfriend and the Miller family at Nicolette’s beautiful waterfront house and climbed up onto the roof to drink Fat Tire Beer, eat hot dogs, nosh cheeseburgers, and crunch Doritos to watch the air show with the jets dipping and diving in a choreographed dance in the clear blue sky.
These past two years I haven’t given the 4th of July so much thought. Although there are plenty of little parties happening around town or events thrown on by the embassy I just don’t have much desire for fireworks, red-white-and-blue cupcakes, and BBQing with strangers who hail from the same country. This isn’t to say I don’t miss the evenings waiting with bated breath, sitting on lounge chairs at the port waiting for the massive fireworks show to start, rather the opposite really. The memories of walking with Brooke to set out our picnic blanket to feast on watermelon halves or prancing around the cul-de-sac with sparklers in hand can never really be replaced. Those golden years of innocence, the troubled ones that followed, and the slow, arduous movement into young adulthood that brought both fear and fancy. That was my America. The America I know and love, and I don’t want to try and implement an imitation that can’t begin to compete with the summers of blissful nights at the drive in theater, the hot summer evenings of a slow setting sun and unsullied delight, and the moments we would sit and let the sky light up our eyes in a kaleidoscope of Chinese bought wonder.
Instead, I will look at the interesting things that happen in Cambodia, and only in Cambodia when thinking back to my home country. My mom will swim across the Mekong River today with the support of a staff cheerleading team trailing behind her in the murky waters (which she was warned NOT to intake), I will sip watermelon martinis and demolish a bowl of tender ribs with my wonderful friends at The Common Tiger in lieu of slices of watermelon and racks of ribs, I will not sweat in weather that would usually have me wishing for an ice bath back in Washington.
Things have certainly changed, yes. Do I miss America with all its powdered cheese covered glory, Target fueled living, and gun toting gung-ho? Of course I do. I miss it for all sorts of reasons: a list that starts with my brilliant friends to the moss on the trees that I would press my finger in to see it slowly take shape again to the rushing, crystal rivers we would stop off at to dip our feet in during the summer to the utterly adored McDonald’s cheeseburger- a token that when mashed between my hands in its wrapper semi transparent with grease would bring instant delight and a rush of toxins that filled me with happiness.
America, the beautiful- you may have your pock marks, your scars, your crags, and incompetencies. But like any of us who inhabitate your states or have spread out to lands afar, we too have no dearth of imperfections and that is one thing that the good old US of A can relate to. Happy 4th of July, to all my fellow American expats- and to those back stateside- a special nod to you.