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An Unforgettable Parade

I’ve never seen a parade I didn’t like. From Fourth of July neighborhood parades where kids ride tricycles and wear blue shorts and red and white striped shirts to Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City, which I’ve only seen on television. And I try to never miss TTU’s Homecoming parades featuring floats made by Tech students and marching bands from many area high schools.

But one parade stands out in my memory. A parade I didn’t plan to watch. Didn’t even realize I was in the right place at the right time until I braked at a stop sign on Washington Avenue and saw a few people standing on the sidewalk. Samuel, my oldest Grand who was 11 at the time, was riding in my van with me.

“What’s happening here?” Samuel asked. I shrugged my shoulders and then looked across the street and saw a military vehicle, young people carrying the American flag and other flags, and some older men dressed in military uniforms. Then I remembered the date and that I’d read about a planned parade.

“It’s the Veteran’s Day Parade,” I said and immediately decided we would join the people on the sidewalk. I don’t remember every detail of that parade, but there were no floats. No fancy cars decorated with crepe paper and balloons. No clowns. No motorcycles. No horses. No candy thrown to spectators. And only one band, but not even all the members of the Cookeville High School marching band.

The band members played patriotic marching songs and members of ROTC, Reserve Officer Training Corps, carrying the flags led. Veterans marched or rode in military jeeps and trucks. Veterans from all branches of the military. Veterans of all ages. Most the age of grandparents. Some walking very slowly. All dressed in uniform.

The veterans carried their shoulders and chins high and acknowledged those of us who applauded quietly to say thank you. Slight head nods and closed mouth smiles were the veterans’ responses to our expressions of appreciation.

This Veteran’s Day parade was short. As the last veteran walked past, Samuel looked up at me. I wiped the back of my hands across my eyes and he asked, “Gran, why are you crying?”

To me, the veterans represented all who have served in the United States Armed Forces, including my father and brother. Dad served in the Army at the end of WW II, and Roger was stationed in Spain for three years while in the Air Force. And I thought of a high school classmate who lost his life fighting in Viet Nam.

Monday, November 12, at 11:00 a.m. we are all invited to honor our veterans at the Putnam County Veterans Day Parade. There will be a short opening ceremony at the courthouse, and then the parade will proceed along Broad Street from North Washington Avenue to the Cookeville Depot. Anyone interested in more information should contact a Veteran’s Service Officer at 931-526-2432.

Let’s line Broad Street to honor those who have served our country.

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4th of July

 

Bicsearchycle spokes laced with crepe paper streamers.  Red, white, and blue balloons tied to the handlebars.  American flags taped to the back of bicycle seats.  Daughter wore blue shorts, a white t-shirt decorated with stars and stripes, and a red ribbon was tied around her ponytail.  Son put on his red shorts, white socks with blue stripes, and a t –shirt with the words Happy Birthday America written with magic markers across its back.  My children and their bikes were ready for the 4th of July parade!

 

It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it’s been more than 30 years since the neighbors on Flatt Circle threw their annual 4th of July parties.  Small-town style.  They invited many families to celebrate our country’s birthday, and they blocked off their cul-de-sac street.  We neighbors and friends showed up carrying our lawn chairs and funeral home, cardboard fans.

 

What a grand event!  Anyone could enter the parade, but mostly children came decked out to march the two-block parade route.  My children’s bikes were decorated that morning, but it was obvious that some families had planned ahead.  Parents and children wore matching outfits, complete with holiday hats.  Painted signs and red, white, and blue banners were taped to the sides of Radio Flyer wagons in which toddlers rode.  We all waved American flags and patriotic music blasted during the ten-minute parade.

 

Our hosts loaded buffet tables with barbeque, hot dogs, cole slaw, baked beans – perfect for a hot summer day picnic.  Blankets and quilts spread on the ground were the dining tables.  After eating, the children raced their bikes and trikes and skateboards up and down the street while we adults talked and laughed and shared stories we’d told time and time again.  As darkness fell, everyone found a place to watch the fireworks show.  Young children settled in their parents’ laps, and big kids got as close to the fireworks as was allowed.  Bright, sparkling fireworks shot higher than the houses’ rooftops, and then the grand finale – red, white and blue flashes burst toward the sky.

 

When the party ended, we adults gathered chairs and blankets and children, who were too tired to ride their bikes home and begged to be carried.   Friends and neighbors hugged and shook hands and promised to get together more often.  After all, we lived just down the street from each other.

 

Our friends on Flatt Circle certainly knew how to host a party.  A parade and lots of fun and food and fireworks.  But looking back, the best thing about that celebration was that neighbors and friends gathered together.  It reminds me of the cookouts in our backyard when I was child.  Mom called her cousins and sisters who brought bowls of potato salad and fresh green beans and platters of sliced tomatoes.  Dad fired up the charcoal grill and cooked hamburgers. It was a big family social event. We young cousins played tree tag and hide-and-seek and eventually sat with the adults to hear the stories they told time and time again.

 

Let’s celebrate our country’s 238th birthday on July 4th with family and friends. Fireworks aren’t necessary, but there has to be food for any good southern celebration.  And there’s sure to be laughter and more than a few stories told.