REMNANTS OF A PARADE
As far back as I can remember, the Labor Day Parade in our town of Milford, New Hampshire has been a big event. Up until a few years ago, my grandmother's house, just several hundred yards outside of downtown, was the gathering spot for our family. From the front porch, and with the arsenal of food typical of Italian families, we would enjoy the long parade. Long held as the largest in the state, there would be the requisite fire trucks from local towns, at least a dozen marching bands from as far aways as Lowell, Massachussetts, and float after float of varying themes but always done up to the max. When my older boys were children I would usually have one of our tractor-trailers, buffed and polished to a fair-thee-well, and the kids and their friends had a blast, throwing candy and seeing their friends along the route. I always looked forward to it in spite of the melancholy it would sometimes bring, marking the end of summer and the return to school, followed by the dark of winter.
Somewhere along the line, politicians began to use the parade for campaigning. This was never a problem until a few years ago, when the community part of the parade seemed to evaporate into thin air, the marching bands became too expensive for the volunteer-funded parade, and the number of people willing to expend the substantial effort and expense of building an immpresive float became all but gone. In fact, two years ago the parade was so saturated with political stuff that the town decided to ban most of the politicians from the parade. The result was a rather pitiful dribble of a couple of bands, then a huge gap and a long wait, a few antique cars, some fire trucks, a handfull of floats which may have been built the morning of the parade, and of course the Shriners in their little scooters and cars. In today's parade, a fight nearly ensued between two 80-something year-old Shriners after one cut-off the other during their fabled "figure-8" routine. Right there in front of me, I stood in stunned silence, while my kids and a bunch of our friends' kids looked on. It was funny and sad at the same time. I looked around at the hundreds of people around me and recognized few, and pondered briefly my fiftieth birthday coming up in November. It was one of those moments you know you're going to remember...I'm a stranger in my hometown. That connection is slipping away. I can still ride by my grandmother's house, renovated by the new owners, and think about my father walking up to that porch sixty-something years ago to pick up my mother for a date. Home from the war, and kicking up some dust in a town where everyone was a friend.
As if the Ninja Shriners weren't enough, around the bend of our downtown common begins the politicians. I guess we're bending the rules a little given the circumstances. Governor Lynch whom I admire is walking with his wife, shaking hands and with very little fanfare. Soon comes Mitt Romney, pressing the flesh, and with a veritable army of supporters carrying signs, handing out stickers and repeating a very annoying chant of some kind. Next is Obama, in the flesh, riding in a convertible with his wife and with very heavy security. It looked like Secret Service, though I'm sure it's a private detail, but he was really covered. The serious looking guys with the earpieces and two jet-black Suburbans leading and tailing, driven by guys who look even more serious than the other serious-looking guys. Obama's support army looked like a small nation. Stunning. A small sea of people with signs, chanting and all that. At this point I'm feeling queezy.
Next, the queen herself, well not "herself", but her supporters, came upon us with an even bigger army than Obama's. Hillary's Squad. Just incredible. Singing, chanting, jumping up and down, just elated over something. It made me feel like jumping up and down and I don't even know why. It's the power of the suggestion of festivity, I suppose. Feeling relieved it was almost over, from the corner of my eye I catch one last little group tagging along. McCain supporters. Maybe a dozen of them, and I know them all. A final somber note to the end of an era. I leave knowing that things change and there's not a lot you can do about it, but I find myself wishing that once in a while, something would change for the better.