Last Monday we drove into town for the Somers Memorial Day Parade. We got started a little late, so we fell in behind a bunch of ambulances and fire trucks. Turns out that WAS the parade, so we had to make it look like we were supposed to be there, conducting whatever official business could be conducted in a Dodge Dart. I tried to look important, waved to the crowd and pointed here and there for effect.
People brought their kids, their dogs, their Cub Scouts. We walked over to the cemetery, where after the parade some local dignitaries helped us pay proper respect to the those interred around us. Celebrating the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country reminds us that we all are capable of minor acts of heroism. Ordinary things that happen every day can plant the seeds of honor in every American man or woman at any time.
I believe that the bravest one in the parade is the guy who stands right in front of the trombone player. Playing a clarinet while walking on eggshells is not easy. Guess what instrument I played when I was in middle school? That's right, the trombone. Our dad wanted us all to learn an instrument, and he asked me what I wanted to play. The drums, of course, but he said no, every other kid was going out for the drums. So he made me sign up for trombone. I was like "Dad, there are 76 trombones in the big parade- do you really think it's imperative that they have a 77th?" The band teacher was easily talked into it since I was five-foot nine in the sixth grade, and the only kid who could reach seventh position on the slide.
If you've never known the joys of working a spit-valve, or taken a whiff of a mouthpiece after a couple of Sousa tunes then you'll never understand what I saw in the drums. But once Mr. Oliver got a hold of me and I grew another two inches during the year, he strapped me into a sousaphone, which is like a cross between a tuba and a radar dish. This went on for two years until I could figure out how to get out of the damn thing. I couldn't play it to save my life, so it's lucky it didn't come to that.
I should have taken up the lyre for the school band, that thing that looks like a glockenspiel, whatever that is. It would have been worth its weight in comedic gold just in pants-on-fire jokes alone. Plus you can rap the mallet over the head of the trombone player if he gets too close.
There's always a person of valor working the barbecue on Memorial Day, usually someone of vague military bearing, wearing an apron and issuing orders. An everyday hero who, when the lighter fluid is applied haphazardly and incinerates the entire grill area, runs toward the fire while the rest of us run away, towards the dessert table.
If you're like me and not known to be the courageous type, showing up at the parade is the smartest thing you can do. If during the procession I happened to run my car onto a rock, then closed the car door on my hand just before the car burst into flames, all I would have to do was get all those police cars, ambulances and fire trucks to stop and turn around. As they simultaneously train a fire hose, antiseptic spray and a can of mace on me, I'm thinking that they might ask me to stay home next year.