Thursday, January 7, 2010

Said won't you follow me down to the Rose Parade?

"Tripped over a dog in a choke-chain collar,
people were shouting and pushing and saying.
Traded a smoke for a food stamp dollar,
ridiculous marching band started playing;
Got me singing along with some half-hearted victory song."

Rose Parade (live) :: Elliott Smith

Growing up I spent most holidays and vacations with my Grandparents. They lived nearly round the corner from where the Rose Parade takes place, and every year my Grandfather would wake up in the best mood - one we would never quite see again the rest of the year - because of this parade. I never understood the appeal, or why it meant so much to him. He was never a big fan of music (not like all the women in my family, a trait I inherited and ran with), he never seemed to care a thing about flowers, and he just never appeared to have the kind of naive hope that a parade seems to celebrate. But he loved it, nonetheless.

Most years I'd watch it with him, at least in parts, at least when I was a young girl who hadn't yet fallen under the spell of "I'm too cool for everything" early adolescence. He was gone not long after that age, anyway. His face would light up when the marching bands made the corner and the music swelled, and often he would get choked up at the beauty of the most ornate floats that drifted by. I never understood why he didn't go down and watch it in person, he lived so close. But maybe that was part of the magic for him, the not seeing it close up. Perhaps that would have taken away some of the appeal.

It happens that way sometimes, doesn't it? We adore something so much from a distance, yet when we get closer, seeing it for what it really is, with exposed wheels pushing it along, skinned knees and blisters from the march, and thorns just underneath the vibrant petals - does all the real change our feelings? Is part of the appeal the mystery and unknown, the squint and everything looks so much better kind of thing? Did my Grandfather long for something beautiful (a welder by trade, with perpetual dirty hands and clothes) and different from his everyday life?

Is there something in all of our lives that we love without really knowing? Do we all have our own Rose Parade?

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