I have no idea how we got to Pleasantville that night, maybe we rented a car, maybe we took the train, no clue. We were invited by a guy I worked with…“come up for a picnic and to watch the Fireman’s Parade, good small-town Americana fun”. Young snotty city girl that I was, it seemed pretty far to travel for a hotdog and some firetrucks, we lived between Bellevue and Beth Israel Hospitals, I had plenty of sirens in my life…but my boss was going, so we went. That parade changed our lives. It was standing on the corner of Bedford and Sunnyside that Greg turned to me and said, I could live here.
The Pleasantville Fireman’s Parade is a thing movies are made of… people lining the main street, Victorian porches decorated in red, white, and blue streamers. Meats grilling. Kids screaming. Marching bands, antique fire trucks, and bug spray. Local politicians leading the parade, waving at the crowds then rushing back to their families. After-parties for participating county volunteer fire departments that make you wonder, how on earth do these people get home in one piece?
Many moons, a marriage, and two kids later, we bought a home in Pleasantville. Our dear friends had just moved into the apartment next-door, our kids were like siblings. They thought it would be good to cut a hole in the shared wall, so they could crawl back and forth with ease…we did not disagree. Moving would be tough, our kids loved the city. The playgrounds, the grit, the sirens…sirens, that was it…we would introduce them to the suburbs via the Fireman’s Parade. The perfect first glimpse of Pleasantville. Jacob was immediately convinced, “Yaycob’s house?”, now to be honest, we did not mention that the parade happened once a year…we just went with it.
This year there is no Fireman’s Parade. No neighbors along the path opening their homes for huge gatherings, no kids waving flags, squirting water guns, or tears over popped balloons. No barbecues, or baseball throws in the backyard once the parade is over. None of it.
In this year of no…no graduations, no proms, no large celebrations…our High School seniors were the stars of their own car parade, on the same main street route they watched the fire trucks as kids. Cars decorated, streamers flying, kids hanging out sunroofs, parents taking videos. Strangers out in full force…social distancing…supporting them with home-made signs of congratulations. We all stepped it up, we clapped, we cheered, we smiled. It was joyous…we once again were experiencing joy.
After that amazing experience I was looking forward to my little guy’s elementary school graduation parade…but he was not into it. Too much noise, too much waiting in line, not his thing, until it was! He decided to join in the car parade around the HS circle, it would be short, sweet, and age appropriate. Greg made a sign for him (Go Sean Go, referencing the classic, Go Dog Go) and we were ready to scream and wave our arms like crazy. First time around…he waved to us from the car window. Second and final time around he blew my mind. My little guy, who hates loud, who is not so into big events, my little guy was standing…half his body out the sun roof…smiling, waving, dancing, and feeling. Feeling. So. Much. More. Joy than he would have sitting in the hot sun waiting for his turn to take a piece of paper from his teacher. Swoon.
The parade went by and all of my sadness at missing out on our final this and our last that faded away. That moment when our eyes connected, and that smile appeared and we were us… perfection.