We were sitting in chairs around the fire with our closest friends, waiting for the fireworks to start when I whispered, 'Do you remember our first Fourth of July together?'

Of course I knew he probably didn't, at least not off of the top of his head. To be fair, we've had quite a few since then and things like that tend to run together. But I did. A clear memory with faded edges. The kind that's even more so meaningful because it's well worn in. A milestone of sorts.

That summer I lived in Chicago before I graduated from college. When my best friend and I threw caution and our cushy summer jobs to the wind and moved there simply for the sake of having fun and to enjoy our fleeting freedom and youth. We shared a tiny two bedroom apartment in Lincoln Park with only a window air conditioning unit during one of the hottest Midwest summers on record.

For the first time in years I only had one job. A waitressing gig that didn't start until 4:30 in the afternoon and left me with copious amounts of alone time during the day while my roommate worked. I sat for hours at the Starbucks down the block meeting interesting people and solving Sudoku puzzles. I read the free Red Eye newspaper daily, cover to cover. I went to the beach and baseball games. Walked everywhere, even when I didn't have to, just to kill time.

It all sounds so heavenly and carefree now but if I'm truly honest, and as I'm sure my mom could attest, I hated it at the time. All those hours with no purpose or money. A new place in a big city. So few familiar faces.

Brent came to visit me one weekend in early July. We were in one of those awkward sort of off, sort of on points in our relationship. Sort of off because I was in Chicago. Sort of on because we had developed some history and strong feelings for each other by this time. We went to dinner and had drinks at the restaurant I worked at and walked all over the North side despite the heat. To the beach and an ice cream shop I had pegged because they served your dish to you on a model train, which I thought would be quaint. But they didn't run the train that day. Maybe because of the searing temps but probably because they deemed us too old.

The next day, the 4th, I called in and we drove to Milwaukee where Brent made me a stuffed monkey at the deserted (and cool) Build-A-Bear in the mall. I remember that they made him kiss the heart before they sewed it into the chest. I loved that monkey. We then headed on to Madison where we battled mosquitos and small children to watch the fireworks at the festival in Monona. I didn't tell anyone I was back in town but it felt so good to be home. It was the first time I really felt that way about Madison.

I guess it's kind of ironic, six years later, that the fireworks we watched this year on the Fourth are the same ones in Monona. Only we can see them from our house now, which means fewer small children...but probably more mosquitos.

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