Parade


On Memorial Day, we would gather at the high school early in the morning and grab our instruments from the band room.  Likely we were indignant about having to rouse ourselves at such an early hour on our day off from school.  We groused.  We rubbed sleep from our eyes.  We fretted over final exams.  We filed into the waiting school busses.

 Every year we had three or four Memorial Day parades, but the one that always stood out for me was the one that took place in the village one mile from my home: The busses would drive down Ryder, known locally as Cemetery Road due to its proximity to the village cemetery.  We would disembark; brush off our uniforms; put on our horrible fuzzy white hats.  We arranged ourselves by instrument and casually walked down Main Street to the parade’s starting point.  We lined up behind the mayor and local dignitaries; behind our local veterans; behind the local Brownie troop.  And then, with a quiet tap of a drumstick against the rim of a snare drum, the parade would begin. 

Here and there, local kids would join the parade, streaming in from the sidewalk on bikes decorated in red, white and blue.  Villagers would line Main Street, standing and cheering and sometimes saluting or sitting in lawn chairs, holding babies in their laps, pointing.  The majorettes, dressed in red sequined bodysuits threw candy at hopeful kids who scampered after it.  Little girls marched along the parade route in imitation of the majorettes, broken sticks serving as batons.  There was a festive air, despite the solemnity of the occasion. 


We would arrive at the cemetery and settle into Parade Rest, the band’s job, for now, complete.  The names of the veterans buried in the cemetery—names going back as far as the Boer War—would be read. The fourth grade elementary class recited the Gettysburg Address from memory.  The major made a speech, thankfully brief, in light of the heat.  Local politicians also made speeches, less brief.   

And then, in one of the highest honors given to a trumpet player, a senior would play Taps, slowly, solemnly, mournfully.  And when the last note of the song settled into the soil, gently touching each and every grave, Taps would be echoed by another player, a trumpeter who’d sneaked over a hill and behind a grove of trees.  And then, our resentment at having to march on our day off would lessen to be tempered with pride and gratitude.

The Brownies would distribute poppies to be planted at the graves of each veteran.  The band would march from the cemetery to the quiet tap of the drumstick against the rim of a snare drum, quiet now, teenagers temporarily struck by the importance of the occasion.  And then we would board the busses to head to the next parade.

* * *

This year, I had no time for Memorial Day parades.  We had to drive: Filibuster still hasn’t gotten her license and she leaves for college in three months.

“Get off here.”  I pointed to the exit.

 “What’s going on?”  Filibuster tightened her grip on the steering wheel as she saw that the end of the ramp was blocked with orange cones.  “What do I do?”

One lane of traffic had been completely shut down. The other lane was divided by a line of cones.  A police man sat on his motorcycle.  “Ask him if it’s OK to go.” I said.

“How?”

“Just shout to him,” I told her confidently.  I was too scared to do it myself.

She frowned at me.  Rolled down her window.  “Officer,” she shouted.  “Is it OK to go?” 

He nodded.  Pointed. 

And Filibuster…Well, Filibuster turned right and joined the Memorial Day parade. 

“Oh, man.  Let’s get out of this.”  I pointed to a Sheraton.  “Just pull in there.”

She signaled and turned and parked.  We had front row seats to the parade.

Riding on the back of a wagon, there was a group called the Jug Band singing patriotic songs.  There were scads of Boy Scouts.  A karate group marched, too, ready to stop and do a demonstration at a moment’s notice.  Kids drove John Deere tractors bedecked with American flags down the middle of the street. 

People lined the street in front of the hotel and by the Bob Evans across the street.  Two couples sat beneath giant beach umbrellas.  Waitresses emerged offering free water to the spectators.  A grinning man drove past on his Allis-Chalmers tractor.  A photographer pointed his camera at the Brownies.  Another band passed, this one playing country music.  A monster truck drove by, three horses immediately behind.  The wind picked up and one of the beach umbrellas turned inside out and, from beneath it, a man studied it intently for a moment before returning his attention to the parade.

Road equipment trucks passed next—cranes and pavers and asphalt trucks.  Then an ambulance and a contingent of seventeen fire trucks and their accompanying pickups and cars, all with flashing lights and occasional abbreviated alarms.

And then the parade ended. 

People gathered up their things: water and chairs and beach umbrellas.  Mothers pulled children down the street in colorful wagons.  Children ate soft pretzels and ice cream cones. 

The police officers gathered up orange cones and stacked them in the median.  Teenagers walked down the sidewalk in cutoff jeans, American flags tucked into their front pockets.

And Filibuster pulled back onto the street and headed home.




Labels: ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Parade

Monday, May 28, 2012

Parade


On Memorial Day, we would gather at the high school early in the morning and grab our instruments from the band room.  Likely we were indignant about having to rouse ourselves at such an early hour on our day off from school.  We groused.  We rubbed sleep from our eyes.  We fretted over final exams.  We filed into the waiting school busses.

 Every year we had three or four Memorial Day parades, but the one that always stood out for me was the one that took place in the village one mile from my home: The busses would drive down Ryder, known locally as Cemetery Road due to its proximity to the village cemetery.  We would disembark; brush off our uniforms; put on our horrible fuzzy white hats.  We arranged ourselves by instrument and casually walked down Main Street to the parade’s starting point.  We lined up behind the mayor and local dignitaries; behind our local veterans; behind the local Brownie troop.  And then, with a quiet tap of a drumstick against the rim of a snare drum, the parade would begin. 

Here and there, local kids would join the parade, streaming in from the sidewalk on bikes decorated in red, white and blue.  Villagers would line Main Street, standing and cheering and sometimes saluting or sitting in lawn chairs, holding babies in their laps, pointing.  The majorettes, dressed in red sequined bodysuits threw candy at hopeful kids who scampered after it.  Little girls marched along the parade route in imitation of the majorettes, broken sticks serving as batons.  There was a festive air, despite the solemnity of the occasion. 


We would arrive at the cemetery and settle into Parade Rest, the band’s job, for now, complete.  The names of the veterans buried in the cemetery—names going back as far as the Boer War—would be read. The fourth grade elementary class recited the Gettysburg Address from memory.  The major made a speech, thankfully brief, in light of the heat.  Local politicians also made speeches, less brief.   

And then, in one of the highest honors given to a trumpet player, a senior would play Taps, slowly, solemnly, mournfully.  And when the last note of the song settled into the soil, gently touching each and every grave, Taps would be echoed by another player, a trumpeter who’d sneaked over a hill and behind a grove of trees.  And then, our resentment at having to march on our day off would lessen to be tempered with pride and gratitude.

The Brownies would distribute poppies to be planted at the graves of each veteran.  The band would march from the cemetery to the quiet tap of the drumstick against the rim of a snare drum, quiet now, teenagers temporarily struck by the importance of the occasion.  And then we would board the busses to head to the next parade.

* * *

This year, I had no time for Memorial Day parades.  We had to drive: Filibuster still hasn’t gotten her license and she leaves for college in three months.

“Get off here.”  I pointed to the exit.

 “What’s going on?”  Filibuster tightened her grip on the steering wheel as she saw that the end of the ramp was blocked with orange cones.  “What do I do?”

One lane of traffic had been completely shut down. The other lane was divided by a line of cones.  A police man sat on his motorcycle.  “Ask him if it’s OK to go.” I said.

“How?”

“Just shout to him,” I told her confidently.  I was too scared to do it myself.

She frowned at me.  Rolled down her window.  “Officer,” she shouted.  “Is it OK to go?” 

He nodded.  Pointed. 

And Filibuster…Well, Filibuster turned right and joined the Memorial Day parade. 

“Oh, man.  Let’s get out of this.”  I pointed to a Sheraton.  “Just pull in there.”

She signaled and turned and parked.  We had front row seats to the parade.

Riding on the back of a wagon, there was a group called the Jug Band singing patriotic songs.  There were scads of Boy Scouts.  A karate group marched, too, ready to stop and do a demonstration at a moment’s notice.  Kids drove John Deere tractors bedecked with American flags down the middle of the street. 

People lined the street in front of the hotel and by the Bob Evans across the street.  Two couples sat beneath giant beach umbrellas.  Waitresses emerged offering free water to the spectators.  A grinning man drove past on his Allis-Chalmers tractor.  A photographer pointed his camera at the Brownies.  Another band passed, this one playing country music.  A monster truck drove by, three horses immediately behind.  The wind picked up and one of the beach umbrellas turned inside out and, from beneath it, a man studied it intently for a moment before returning his attention to the parade.

Road equipment trucks passed next—cranes and pavers and asphalt trucks.  Then an ambulance and a contingent of seventeen fire trucks and their accompanying pickups and cars, all with flashing lights and occasional abbreviated alarms.

And then the parade ended. 

People gathered up their things: water and chairs and beach umbrellas.  Mothers pulled children down the street in colorful wagons.  Children ate soft pretzels and ice cream cones. 

The police officers gathered up orange cones and stacked them in the median.  Teenagers walked down the sidewalk in cutoff jeans, American flags tucked into their front pockets.

And Filibuster pulled back onto the street and headed home.




Labels: ,

4 Comments:

At May 29, 2012 at 4:26 AM , Anonymous Mary said...

Interesting contrast between city and town, yet so similar. The beauty lay in the tribute, each according to its customs. Nicely done.

 
At May 30, 2012 at 5:28 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

INTERESTING COMPARISON BETWEEN NOW AND THEN... Great "Segment of a day in the life of:,

 
At June 2, 2012 at 8:40 AM , Anonymous Erin @Momfog said...

Love the contrast.

"And then the parade ended." An abrupt line for an abrupt end. This makes me sad. All celebration and no solemnity for an important day. Nicely done.

 
At June 2, 2012 at 8:13 PM , Anonymous SisterhoodoftheSensibleMoms said...

This makes me nostalgic for my childhood and sad that my kids haven't experienced this little slice of America. You portrayed it so beautifully and vividly that maybe I'll just have them read your piece. Ellen

 

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