My baby sister Meg (OK, she's not quite a baby anymore, but she'll always be my Baby Sister) wrote this beautiful story about our childhood 4th of July experiences. Just tuggin' at those old heart strings, it makes me cry everytime I read it. I hope you enjoy it too.
I don’t remember the first time that I participated in my Mom’s Fourth of July Parade. There is a picture though… I'm young, perhaps two or three years old, and I'm perched on top of a pony with my mother by my side. A small crowd is gathered around us and we all smile and wave for the camera, taken on a rural road outside my grandparent’s home.
The summer when I was six, our family moved to our new home in Studio City, California. By the Fourth of July my sister and I had only had time to make one new friend, Darren, a boy who lived four houses down from us. We had already bored of the summertime activities.
We begged my mom to think of something to entertain us. She suggested we have a Fourth of July Parade, like she the one she started back home. Often she told us the story of how she started the parade, how each year the number of participants grew, and how fun it could be if we started the tradition in our new neighborhood.
Naturally we fought the idea initially as there were only three of us (Mom suggested we take the dog too). Eventually we dressed up in red, white and blue outfits, we found flags, we decorated our dog in crepe paper streamers, and we carried pots and wooden spoons to create marching music.
Mom cheered from the front lawn as we marched down the sidewalk from the front of our home down to Darren’s. We waved our flags proudly and tried to bang out “The Star-Spangled Banner” on pots, although it frightened the heck out of the dog (and any other hearing being).
It was not long before we began to gain the attention of the other neighbors (I don’t wonder why) who stoically watched our determined route back and forth. Passing cars honked appreciatively. We grew tired of parading pretty quickly and we were sure the new neighbors thought we were nuts.
The following year in June my Mom again suggested the parade. I complained bitterly that I didn’t want to do it because we looked foolish (a parade of three), I didn’t like the cars honking at us, and the pot banging simply had to go. I felt certain, at age seven, this reasoning would get me out of it. Instead she conceded to gathering additional resources to join us, changing the parade route to the quieter side street, and following in a car with the radio blaring marching music.
The parade was on. I was doubtful, but true to her word she invited all the families we knew and lured them with the promise of free lemonade and spaghetti dinner at the end of the parade.
We started about six blocks from our house with about ten to fifteen people. We picked up anyone willing to join us along the way and ended with about twenty people at my house, with the free lemonade and spaghetti promised for participation.
Each year the participants swelled. Mom’s parade discouraged no one from participation. This is no formal affair as you can see… if you want to lead the parade, you just move to the front… if you want to be in the drum line, you bring your pot and spoon…. if you want to ride in a float, you make your own.
As we grew older, my sister and I began to spend the summer away with my dad. My Mom continued the tradition without us for a time, but eventually it became too much for her to manage. She decided she could not host the parade. Luckily the new guard of neighborhood mothers took up the cause and the tradition continued (without the free spaghetti).
About five years ago my Mom decided to sell her home, and follow her heart to the Napa Valley. Before she moved, we decided to go back and see the parade one last time. We watched with amazement at all the people gathered. Someone in the crowd recognized my mother and pulled her into the gorgeous red convertible that was leading the parade. Her face was flushed with joy as she looked at the “little” parade she started so long ago.
Does the parade still continue? I really hope so, because when I think of the “Spirit of America”, I think of that parade… of kids on their bikes and pulled in red wagons waving the flag, of dogs decorated in crepe paper steamers, but most of all… I think of my Mom, who always encouraged us to take the single step from the curb into the street and not just watch the parade go by, but to risk looking like a fool and make one of our own.