Holiday parades

When we were children, winter brought a slowing of our father’s business. Thanksgiving usually marked a time when our dad was around home a bit more for a few weeks until New Year’s. The shop had less work and the airport shifted from as much active flying to more maintenance. There were a few large end-of-the-year deals to work out as people made investments to affect their anticipated tax burden and an annual inventory to be completed and other end-of-the year business to conduct, but there was also more office work that our father could do from home. He’d leave a bit later for work, linger a bit longer at lunch time and make it home a bit earlier for dinner. One year, after resisting having a television set in our home until nearly all of our neighbors had televisions, our father tackled a Heathkit Color Television, completing the kit between Christmas and New Years, in time for us to have one of the first color televisions in our town for the annual Rose Bowl Parade. The color balance wasn’t adjusted correctly for that parade which was more “orange and green” than “full living color” as advertised by NBC. He later got more skilled at adjusting the color on the set and we watched quite a few parades on that television.

The kickoff of the television parade season was, of course, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade “live from New York City.” While the turkey cooked in the oven and a host of other cooking preparations were being made in the kitchen, we would anticipate the big dinner while we watched the giant balloons making their way between the tall buildings of New York City. In those days, before I visited New York City for the first time, I was always a bit disappointed that the buildings of the city appeared on television to be rather dull and gray. I had been taught to sing about “Thine alabaster cities gleam above the fruited plain,” and expected that New York, the biggest of them all, to be shining white. It never seemed to be so on television.

But you could tell, even from television, that the balloons were spectacular. Imagine a balloon so big that it took a huge team of people to hold it down! The big parade in our home town was the annual Rodeo Parade, held in the summer, with floats from most of the local businesses. We always created some kind of float for the parade, usually on a trailer pulled by a tractor or on the back of our delivery truck. One year our dad landed an airplane on the highway at the edge of town and towed it through the parade route with a saddle over the tail upon which I rode. That generated a bit of excitement and conversation about how he got it to fit between the trees on main street.

Still, our little parade, complete with every fire truck in the department and both cars of the Sheriff’s Department and the lone local police car, went by pretty quickly. The whole show was always over in less than an hour.

Later, when I was an adult, we enjoyed the annual Reeder Appreciation Days Parade in a small North Dakota Town where the three block of Main Street were so short that they would run the parade around the block and cruse back down main street in the opposite direction so everyone could watch it twice and see both sides of the horses, floats and fire trucks.

My fascination with parades continued well into my adult life. When we moved to South Dakota, I participated in the chamber of commerce sponsored Leadership Rapid City program. My class started an annual night lights parade on the Friday after Thanksgiving that continued every year until this year, when the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. I volunteered for several years, directing traffic and staffing parade barricades.

This year, however, isn’t a year for parades. There was an annual Macy’s Day Parade in New York City, but it was restricted to a single block and the television show featured pre-recorded entertainment. On of the featured artists, Dolly Parton, wasn’t even in New York, having recorded her part of the show from Tennessee. They did have the big balloons, but I didn’t watch the parade. We have a small television, but it hasn’t been unpacked. I did watch a 59-second video summary of the parade on the BBC website. That’s about it for holiday parades for me this year.

There was no lack of entertainment at our house, however. Our grandchildren came streaming into our house at a full run from the car as soon as they pulled up out front. We made holiday placemats for each other and got down on the floor to play with toys including an ample supply of Lego bricks saved from when their father was a boy. We feasted on traditional foods and checked in over Skype and FaceTime with our daughter’s family and with family friends back in South Dakota. Some of us had two kinds of pie with ice cream and whipped topping for desert. It was a wonderful day. I think our celebrations were muted enough that we didn’t annoy the neighbors, which is a good thing because we definitely are the new kids on the block.

As for work, things are a LOT laid back for us this year. Usually the First Sunday of Advent involves a few extra hours at the church. There are banners to change, an Advent Wreath to set out, and craft supplies to gather for the Advent fair. Gathering craft supplies for craft projects for our grandchildren was a somewhat smaller task.

On Sunday afternoon we’ll take our children out to a local farm to purchase tulip bulbs to plant. They’ll need to be planted quickly. Early November is the time to plant tulip bulbs around here. And they know tulips. The annual tulip festival in our new home town occurs each April and they’ve planted well over five million tulip and daffodil bulbs this year. The fields and fields of flowers are producing bulbs that will be sold across the country for summer planting in gardens. We are looking forward to the festival this year, which will be our first in-person visit to the fields of flowers. In the meantime, our grandchildren will plant a few bulbs at their new home to brighten up the spring while their grandparents talk to them about anticipation and waiting.

It seems that I have no need for a parade this year.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!