4 July 2003
Born on the Fourth of July
My son Russell is twenty-two today, and by now he's found out, as I'd found out at that point back in '75, that the so-called awkward years don't suddenly end just because you're no longer a teenager. He's made more progress than his old man did: he still hasn't nailed down that sense of place yet (nor have I, really), but he's found someone to share it with him, which ultimately may be more important. At twenty-two, maturity and fun seem often to be at odds with one another; striking a balance between the two is difficult, but he'll get the hang of it. (I did, but not until I was nearly forty.)
In the next office over, we have a Major Babe celebrating a birthday, though I would never be so churlish as to identify which birthday it is. There's a laugh line or two, and telltale bits of blueness above the backs of her knees, but otherwise her body isn't going to tell you how old she is either; if you see her at the end of the hallway for the very first time, you'll wonder when we started hiring cheerleaders, fercrissake. I once suggested we cut her open and count the rings, which got fewer laughs than I expected. And she's one of those people who seemingly never has an unkind word for anyone, though the one and only person she is known to have told off promptly disappeared from the office and, for all I know, from the face of the earth, which suggests that it is probably not wise to cheese her off.
And on this date we celebrate the birthday of the United States of America, still young at 227, suffering a few growing pains here and there, getting used to the new order of things, waiting for a scar or two to heal. It's kind of an awkward time for the nation: we've exerted ourselves in unexpected directions recently, and we're not exactly sure how it's all going to come out. On the upside, we still look pretty good, and we have suggested that it is probably not wise to cheese us off.