Fourth of Julie

My sister’s home feels like a luxury California resort and spa, with a yard three times of the house itself, an outdoor kitchen and bar with built-in beer taps and an infinity-edged pool and Jacuzzi with a waterfall overlooking the canyon. The lawns are expansive enough for a planned putting green, as well as bocci ball, horseshoe and badminton courts. In addition to the three separate picnicking areas, there’s a wooden grape arbor shading a farmhouse table for twelve. 

At night, she fires up a lava rock fire pit and a wood-burning brick fireplace and pizza oven, with tiki torches and hanging lanterns providing optional firelight. Lavender and rosemary patches become most fragrant in the noonday sun, and in the summertime peach and apricot trees drop fruit around the yard.

Yesterday she gathered all that to make homemade jam, barbecue sauce, cobbler and Fuzzy Navels for an impromptu Fourth of July picnic for sixteen. Among the well-heeled suburban guests list in North County San Diego were two financial analysts, a mortgage broker, a State Department official, an Olympic-level athlete turned swim coach, and a contractor widely known to have cornered the local market on epoxy flooring. There were also assorted children and mix and match suburban wives whose names I didn’t catch. At least one of these was pregnant, although I only did a cursory spot check, along with plenty of talk about C-sections, Elmo, healthy snacking, squirt guns and time outs.

My brother-in-law is a stockbroker who wanted to be a television producer, and my sister is a lawyer who wanted to be a gourmet chef. In college, she studied in France and learned to speak flawless French but hasn’t made it back much since. Since he is bald and so white he actually glows, it was hard not to worry about the fate of his enormous head in the scorching sunlight reflecting off the pool, where he wondered aloud what “the poor people” were doing right now. “We’re fine,” I told him, lying in a nearby lounger with my two farting wiener dogs at my feet. “I am a screenwriter who wanted to be a screenwriter,” I thought about adding by way of explanation. But he was on to a more pressing conversation about swim diapers and how it takes seven seconds for chlorine to kill uric acid.

In a more energetic mood, I might have interjected that, given the choice between authenticity and poverty, I chose the path less traveled by, the one with no swimmers to diaper, or guns to squirt or time outs to give. And even on weekends and holidays—when I’m occasionally compelled to go out and play with those who appear to have everything—that has made all the difference.

But I didn't bother with any of that, in part because my hunch is he isn't all that big on the poetry of Robert Frost or, you know, anybody else. Neither did I hand him a hat and a tube of sunscreen and implore him to save himself. My sister recently told me that he and I are co-beneficiaries on her life insurance policy, and I figured if he wants to check out early from malignant melanoma, who was I to interfere? I may be a dreamer, but hell, I'm no fool.