There's just something about a summer parade that makes me very emotional. Maybe it's the combination of warm weather and relaxing with my family that brings down my defenses and lets my true feelings show.
Most parades start with the American flag and our veterans who so proudly served our country. Witnessing these brave men and women, and all of the people honoring their commitment to America by standing with their hands over their hearts always begins a flow of tears from my eyes as my heart tugs with a mix of pride and love.
The tears are soon wiped away as Santa appears in Bermuda shorts with a gaudy, artificial white Christmas tree and shouts out "I'm watching you!" He's followed by bubble blowing men wearing Hawaiian grass skirts who are joined by several silly clowns. How can I not smile at these delightful people?
Then the tears start again when a truck appears with several elderly men sitting in the back wearing white shirts and black ties enjoying some of their favorite polka tunes. I am reminded of my dad and his love for polkas. It was in this season of summer that his earthly life passed into eternity.
But tears easily turn to laughter when a fire truck drives by and squirts the sun-baked crowd with water hoses. Even more laughter erupts when the crowd begins to throw water balloons at the firemen! But the best gut-wrenching laugh comes when a water balloon misses its target and hits my brother-in-law right in the stomach!
Here come the tears again as a convertible car drives by transporting a beautiful girl in an evening gown with a sash and crown and I hear my daughter Mary call out "You're pretty!" The sweet honesty of little children always brings out my sentimental side.
Back to the smiles as a float arrives with a young rock band wailing out an angst filled song. Their long hair that hides their faces cannot hide the fact that their heads bang back and forth to the music and I notice my teenage sons following the band with their eyes all the way down the street with looks of jealousy on their faces.
Something about the antique fire trucks with their sirens blaring sends a chill through my body in spite of the heat of the day and the tears fill my eyes once again. Laughter returns when the clerks from the local grocery store march past pushing grocery carts filled with (what else?) water balloons!
The tears of National Pride are turned back on again as the High School Marching Band passes by blaring out "America the Beautiful" on their horns and drums. It causes goose bumps to appear on my arms and I absentmindedly rub them to bring some warmth back to my body even though I am standing in the blazing sun.
Delight resumes when the children cry "CANDY"! and scramble to collect the treats that are thrown at their feet. Mary has the spirit of sharing as she throws a few pieces back to my husband and I, who are just a couple of big kids at heart when it comes to candy. And what kind of treat does the Natural Food Store give out? Why fresh daisies, of course!
The parade is complete with horses and cowboys, antique cars and historical costumes. My family packs up our chairs, blankets and candy (please don't forget the candy!) and drive home with satisfied smiles on our faces and warm feelings in our hearts.
I realize that the parade is like life, an absurd mix of joys and sorrows, side by side, one after the other. And somehow, it seems right that parades and life should be this blend of ups and downs. God created our lives to be connected with others, we are meant to share our joys and sorrow standing side by side in our community. We strengthen each other in our sorrow and laugh with each other in our joy. I thank God for summertime parades of emotion and lifelong journeys of emotion as well. Joy and sorrow belong together just as naturally as we all belong to God. I love and embrace this contradiction, this joy and sorrow intertwined. I am thankful for this lifelong mingling of emotion that draws us closer to one another and closer to God.