I was smiling and waving to beat the band. I had a fancy coffee in hand…one that boasted an almost Starbucksian price tag without the presumed political posturing. I waited for the coffee to cool a bit as I pushed up the sleeves of my red shirt and pretended not to swelter as the South Alabama sun beat jollily down on the town’s Christmas parade.
My spot was well-chosen. I sat on the backside of the parade route with the nearest onlooker a good 50 feet away. I thought the gutter beneath my feet might discourage candy throwing and heard several mothers admonish their float-riding darlings not to toss candy my way for fear of wastefulness. I got pelted anyway! I do admit, many a piece of candy did make its way down to the dark infrastructure. I didn’t try too hard to catch the starlight mints or the Halloween-wrapped toffee (C’mon, people), but I did make a rather athletic save for a Reese’s Cup and managed to juggle two rent-a-center plastic cups and a string of Mardi Gras beads without dropping them into the abyss.
The parade had everything you’d expect in a Deep South promenade: ROTC cadets, the high school marching band, the mayor and other dignitaries, an antique tractor brigade, beauty queens, cub scouts, politicians, tiny majorettes, military vehicles from the national guard armory, tankers from the fire station, and floats from local churches and businesses. Most of the marchers sported rosy red cheeks, not from Old Jack Frost (who was positively melting by the time he passed by me, but playing his part to the hilt) but from early onset heat exhaustion. Trust me. Santa hats with temperatures rising near 80 is flirting with disaster, especially since the parade route is long enough to be a good haul for even the kids. Santa Claus himself brought up the rear, looking jolly despite his thick red coat and boots.
So there I sat on the curb, all alone, in the midst of a parade. And, do you know what? I wasn’t lonely at all! I greeted and was greeted by friends as they walked or rode by. I “Merry Christmas’d” my guts out! I watched my own kid march with the band while the other was across town playing in a basketball tournament. I hopped right up after waving enthusiastically to Santa and hoofed it over to the town park for the parade after-party. The park was packed and the sounds of laughter mingled with the high school steel drum band playing holiday tunes calypso-style. Kids shouted as they hurled chunks of snow–hauled in by 18 wheelers for the occasion–at each other and any unsuspecting adult who wandered too near the cordoned snow zone.
What a content way to watch a parade! The weather may not have been Christmassy, but it was beautiful and clear. There was no bickering over candy or those silly plastic beads. There was no pressure to make lasting Christmas memories (or else!). There was no meltdown over which child Santa waved to. Between the parade and the basketball tournament, there was no time to do my usual Saturday shopping chores. For a couple of hours, it was just me and that was just fine.