It’s the Fourth of July and – hooray! – I’m home in New York City to celebrate it. Prodigal expat WIN. There is a rooftop picnic at Gia’s apartment in Fort Greene and the menu follows thus: Popeye’s fried chicken, (real) biscuits, homemade red beans and rice, corn on the cob, and lychee, blueberry, and watermelon martinis. Dessert is lychee, blueberry, and watermelon fruit salad. Continuing with the red, white, and blue theme, three of us are wearing blue and white striped dresses with subtle red accessories. We are six women, one haughty Siamese cat, and one shy black puppy.
We are playing poker and spiking the lemonade with vinho verde. The puppy helps herself to a few licks of my martini. We can see Manhattan in the distance, hazily gray, and when the sun goes down, we see the Empire State building lit up red, white, and blue. The fireworks start and someone has the radio on. It’s playing The Star Spangled Banner. I’m looking out at the skyline, at the Empire State building, at the fireworks exploding over the Hudson and the drums roll and my cheeks are wet.
This is what being an expat does to you – turns you into a sentimental little eejit. It’s dark so no one sees me wipe my eyes, but what would I say if they did: “I just really miss and love America”? Well, if you love it so much, why do you live in Europe? Why are you planning yet another international move?
Because it’s a big world out there. Because that big world can teach me things. Because I love to eat new foods. Because living abroad has been so good for my writing. But I still love my country. My country is like my family – I don’t always like it, sometimes it embarrasses the hell out of me, but it made me who I am, is inside my blood, and I can never, will never, stop loving it.
To all the other expats out there – I salute you. I salute us. Happy national holiday, no matter where you’re from or where you are.