Worth Waiting

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It was supposed to rain that Thursday, but as the time for the parade drew closer, blue took over more and more of the sky. The Big Guy was working, as he does most years on the Fourth of July.  As they do most years, our plans for the day included chores and little else.

The little else – a homemade, hometown parade along a mile and a half stretch of the main road of our town of 300 – is the highlight of our Independence Day each year. Comprised of a small collection of tractor- and horse-drawn wagons, festooned with flags and flowers from nearby fields and filled with singing townsfolk, the entire train passes by in less than a few minutes. Some years we ride on the wagons. This year we decided to wait and wave, and, this year, the waiting made all the difference.

We decided to head out to the parade a little early this year. The bridge at the bottom of our road is closed, and we planned to watch from the Town Hall a mile and half away at the other end of the road. The 150 year old school house across from the Town Hall (which, along with the nearby church are the town’s center) was the site of an art show hosted by a friend, and six-year-old Thing2 wanted to bring her flowers for luck.

With twenty minutes to spare before the parade got going a mile down the road from the schoolhouse, we took our time visiting with our artist friend and helping her setup. We browsed the paintings and prints, glancing out the window for approaching flag-wrapped horses, but none appeared. I checked my cellphone, and, noting that ‘hitching time’ was past, ushered my twelve and six-year-old out the door and across the road.

A few other townsfolk were arriving at the schoolhouse and making their way from art show to parade stand, stopping to patronize a lemonade stand that two boys had strategically placed next to the road. A few people brought chairs, and, as we each searched for a patch of shade, we began taking turns walking into the road to scan for the parade leader.

Ten minutes passed, and our small group concluded that hitching time had been delayed. The smaller boys began making miniature forts with bits of bark scavenged from around the oak tree that shaded us. Neighbors finished talking about the weather and began catching up in earnest. At forty minutes past hitching time we were certain that the lead rider was just around the bend, and the conversation turned to parades past. But the green at the bend in the road remained uninterrupted.  The younger children now conceived a world in a grassy curve carved by the roots of the oak tree, and neighbors began to discover each other in earnest.

Almost two hours had passed after the first horse was scheduled to leave the parade starting point, we heard hoofbeats and the hum of the first antique tractor.

A bunting-wrapped Kubota backhoe pulling a hay wagon loaded with singing townsfolk, prodigal children and grandchildren and other out-of-town guests led the parade this year. It stopped every few feet to let children on and off, and from the center of the wagon, candy and gum came flying at my kids. A few minutes later a pair of horses appeared, their riders carefully balancing flag poles on the toes of their boots. There were a few other tractors and wagons, and then two flag-bearers on foot came into view from around the bend. An ancient tractor pulling the last wagon appeared. This one was loaded with singers and one participant who had turned his attention to a magazine he brought along. The entire procession lasted less than ten minutes. 

The morning was gone. I was still in visiting mode, and it seemed too late to start the chores I had assigned myself and the boys. I checked my watch and noticed that it was almost time for the Big Guy to leave work.

Deciding strange forces were converging to put us on a different course for the day, the boys and I decided to go get the Big Guy and take him to lunch. Chores and to-do lists were forgotten. The reason for the season was officially our nation’s independence, but it was the waiting that had forced us to free ourselves from routine, if only for a day. As always, the tiny parade was worth the wait. The wait, however, was priceless.

 

 

 

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