vexillology - \vek-suh-LAH-luh-jee\
Noun: the study of flags
4th of July
He starts preparing for the holiday two weeks in advance. It starts with the their fridge filling up with a variety of meats and ingredients for the BBQ. The grill is his very favorite thing about summer and she is happy to let him indulge. This is the one holiday where food is firmly in his court.
Her duty remains decorating. She pulls down the boxes from their dusty attic. Inside she finds the usual banners, boxes of sparklers and, of course, the flags.
They own one full sized flag that they will hang from a long pole in front of their house. She'll be able to sit on their porch and watch as it swings in the summer breeze. Stars and stripes flowing together as they do. There is also a bag full of smaller flags each affixed to its own tiny wooden stick. She will use these to decorate the desserts. Tiny flags erupting from the tops of cupcakes and jello molds. These flags are stiff and fading. She will smile as she watches him lick the frosting from the stick after he pulls one of these from a chocolate covered cupcake.
That's a habit their son inherited she thinks. There are a cascade of memories of their boy growing up. Numerous July picnics and frosting coating chubby and clumsy fingers. Laughter and the smell of bratwurst cooking.
She tucks the memories away and carries the assembled flags downstairs. In the kitchen her husband has arranged an unruly pile of hamburger and hotdog buns. His face is a study in distraction.
For the briefest moment as she sets the bag of small flags on the counter she wonders about that.
There is one other flag that they never speak about and which is never on display. Carefully and professionally folded, it resides in a case of glass and wood in the untouched second bedroom upstairs. As she stands on the ladder and affixes the other flag to the pole on the porch she blinks away a startling wetness from her eyes. She can smell charcoal and lighter fluid wafting over the house from the backyard and she smiles, distantly.