We pile the kids into the car and drive through the dusk in this midwestern farmland, old quilts and bug spray and camping chairs in the trunk, grandparents at the big house, telling us to go ahead.
Virginia plays songs by Randy Travis and Jhené Aiko about longing and love from her cracked iPhone 7 as we sail along Route 50 into the night.
At the Jiffy Lube we slow down to make a left turn and see a half dozen cars tailgating in the Shoe Mart parking lot, waiting for the same fireworks that we have come to watch, except we will see them atop a perfect golf green, and I feel a mix of pride and shame.
Cars are parked on the shoulder of the club’s driveway like beads lined up to make a necklace. We find plenty of spaces near the pool and head toward the noise.
It’s near dark now and kids are playing corn hole and ring toss, rounds of people are laughing at patio tables spread with white tablecloths, and on an outdoor dance floor flashing with strobe lights, heads are bouncing to Miley Cyrus singing “We Can’t Stop.”
We don’t know anyone, so we weave past hands carrying cups so thin the sides cave in when full of whiskey sour, through exhales scented of gin & tonic, past a group of teenage girls with hope in their eyes who rush up to a guy at the patio fence then careen off toward the dance floor.
We spread out our blankets along the edge of the viewing area. The Black Eyed Peas are singing “I Gotta Feeling” that tonight’s gonna be a good, good night, and kids with sparklers run over the fairway, and the back door of the clubhouse bangs open and closed as people stream in and out.
It’s a 4th of July party like any other, and yet this summer is not another. When we are home in D.C., camps and birthday parties happen online, and passing an acquaintance is like spotting a celebrity. I love this party, but it feels like a pitcher of rum punch pouring over me and knowing that something in this drink could be poisonous.
There have only been 113 cases of the virus in this entire rural Ohio county, but if this were a party in the city, I’d feel like I was holding a black sparkly purse full of stolen cash.