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Paul Cézanne: Antoine Dominique Sauveur Aubert, the Artist's Uncle, as a Monk
"The nights are dark but our hearth feels warm."

Because nothing says Happy Holidays like a big, huge bucket truck festooned with lights. Festooned, being one of those words essentially reserved solely for use during December, serves as a big tell as to what's going on. The Muse and I are watching our small city's annual holiday parade, the FestivalOfLights. Main Street, holiday lights off, stands lined with people on both sides as a long line of clearly Homemade floats passes by us. As near as I can tell, the opportunity for families and strangers to wave at each other might serve as the primary purpose of the whole charade. It's equally absurd and endearing. A guy rides by astride a sway-backed Appaloosa playing We Wish You A Merry Christmas on a battered trumpet. No explanation offered or demanded. The crowd applauds. Another big, huge bucket truck rumbles by, lights manically flashing, its advertising unreadable, rider waving, smiling, and greeting. I'm moved to tears.

It had been years since The Muse and I attended a hometown parade.
Sure, we peeked into parades in other hometowns in lieu of peeking into our own's, but we knew the difference. Here, we possess some sense of what that electrical company, who thoughtfully also entered one of their big, huge bucket trucks into the procession, actually does. They've done work for us. They're almost family. When Just Visiting another hometown parade, we never knew. It was anonymity through and through. Here, those kids riding crazily-lighted bikes down the middle of Main Street at night are our neighbors' kids and that renders them different. Somebody had the bright idea to run the little locomotive that plies our tiny short-line railroad up to its Main Street crossing to sound its horn and let kids crawl all over it. Every wine bar along Main Street is open and busy. It's more than enough to leave anyone dizzy with distraction. This here parade seems the most popular attraction, and very well-earned.

We move through the throngs with our masks on, though many still seem blithely maskless. Some doubtless arrived more than an hour early, bringing lawn chairs to designate their curb space to avoid having to peer over anyone else's shoulders. I'd been out grocery shopping earlier in the afternoon and the downtown core had already been locked down, blocked off with Community Event signs and barricades. The woman behind the counter at the butcher shop, which I'd hiked into from a peripheral parking lot, reported that 'they' had promised to leave the access open until four. It was only three, but the parade had been cancelled the year before and everyone was looking forward to the spectacle, and, what the Hell, it's only one night a year. Oh, it was raining, too! Almost a proud tradition to get wet and cold but washed with light on this goofiest night of the year.

A middle schooler in a contingent from a church or a rock-crushing business walked by proclaiming, in a breaking voice, Merry Easter, and I cringed, remembering the times when I'd found myself on some public stage and blew it, thinking myself terribly clever rather than virulently adolescent. The sacred and the profane passed by, one seemingly celebrating the birth of a lime green inflatable tyrannosaurus while others, more humbly, the Baby Jesus. The alternative high school had a float wherein they performed some sort of skit, the gist of which was lost in the context. We still applauded. Shriners, absent their once-traditional caper-cycles, cruised by in a calliope pulled by a festooned (there's that word again) pick-up. This parade features many, many pick-up trucks, even more than bucket ones. The final truck featured a water tank wrapped in flashing lights and honking its horn. It pulled a large trailer, which bore Santa Claus, or so The Muse informed me. I was so distracted by the size and noise (Bright! Shiny!) that I missed the cue and so missed Claus, the traditional parade ending. Let the retail season begin!

We stumbled off into one of the darker nights of the year, only to quite literally stumble into old friends and shirt-tail relatives, Christmas trees set up as fund raisers, and a certain cheer. It had been years, a decade since we had even had the chance to be home for this holiday and not 'just' visitors at home, and though The Grand Refurbish promises an almost a photo finish by Christmas, the season's now well and firmly set. The Muse has begun her annual stollen bake and I finished raking up the last of Autumn's leaves just as the chilling rains began. The nights are dark but our hearth feels warm. I wouldn't be that surprised to hear Harkening Herald Angels start singing carols or something next. We're clearly home for Christmas.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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