Sunday, December 6, 2009
Living in a rural community, our traditions are held closely and anticipated very eagerly each year. Not to say that larger communities don't as well... we, I think, just place a bit more importance on these events staged so close to our homes and consisting of so many faces we know personally.
Last night was our Christmas Parade. Although it starts at five, crowds amass long before the first police siren is sounded. The goal... prime viewing, of course. We staked our "usual" spot, just in front of a business owned by friends. It was their first anniversary as a business - so the added boon of warmth and snacks were appreciated too.
Several businesses set up booths offering free cocoa and cider, the Grand Marshall handed out balloons (many of which escaped long before dark), and families set up camp... blankets, camp chairs, all-terrain strollers...
The parade began with 10 seconds of silence. For those that are familiar with Washington local news, this was in honor of four fallen police officers, recently gunned down in a coffee shop with no provocation. One of the officers, the only woman, had worked in emergency dispatch and as a patrol officer in this very town. Although I never met her (she moved on to another town before we moved here), a great sense of loss and heartbreak is shared by this small city.
Finally, it was dark and two patrol cars lit up and hit their sirens. It was rather interesting to watch the variety of reactions. Some children were thrilled and cheered, while other children covered their ears and cowered in their strollers... and parents assured them that the noise would be over soon. Personally... my children would have probably been cheering, or at least not in anyway upset. Both have been known to sleep through events like tractor pulls, hydroplane races and such.
I've noticed that smaller towns place a high emphasis on public safety and the people associated with it. Sure, police and fire vehicles are common in almost any American parade, but prior to attending this procession, I'd never seen Public Works equipment and monster towing vehicles... towing a large tow truck (with a car on it), that was towing another tow truck, etc., etc., etc. It was rather like this long tow-train. Don't get me wrong - I liked it. I'd just never seen anything similar before.
One of the best parts of parades is people watching. Children are always very excited, wriggling about - but staying close to loved ones... all the lights and sounds are a little scary. Teenagers roam around in packs, meeting up with friends and trying to look unimpressed with the parade. Adults, with children, either look harried trying to keep Junior under control and out of the line of the oncoming procession, or bored and wishing desperately it would hurry up and end. They have things to get done at home. Grandparents are usually pretty obvious - they're the ones, just as excited as the little ones. Oohing and Ahing at the sounds and lights, pointing at unexpected parade treasures like giant goats pulling the cart, instead of the tiny ponies they originally thought were there.
Occasionally, you encounter the ever-present rude people, who have no concept of anything but their own pleasure and needs. You know the kind - will step in front of someone obviously taking pictures, or will knowingly jostle a neighbor, but refuse to apologize or even acknowledge it... or better yet, look indignant because you didn't apologize for being bumped by them. But, I digress...
The usual muscle and vintage cars were festively lit up. My favorite was probably the blue Olds Cutlass. Illuminated John Deere trackors, goat-powered carts, a high school marching band, cheerleaders, Miss Forest Festival and a 20 foot tall Paul Bunyan. Nothing says Christmas like a giant man with an ax... LOL. This area's history and ecomony is reliant on timber and aqua-culture... in fact, a local high school's mascot is the "High Climber" (a lumberjack).
Finally! It's time for the big show... and Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on top of their customary fire engine. Children and adults alike cheer and watch them approach, pass and disappear into the distance. The crowd disperses quickly and before the sidewalks are even cleared, the street sweepers and clean up brigade arrive to set things right again.
Today, the streets decorations remain, the town is tidy and our small community has been given the official go forth and be merry edict.
Happy Holidays to everyone...