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What’s not to love about a parade?

By Jason Offutt

My wife and I picked our spot on the parade route early. Homecoming parades in small towns are generally popular events because, seriously, what is there to do at 9 a.m.? The street, already dotted with people on blankets and in lawn chairs, would fill up soon.
There is a problem getting to the parade route early enough to find a great spot that offers both a nice viewpoint and a strategic location by which to snag the most candy – it’s keeping the children from driving us crazy.
“When is this parade going to start?” the Girl asked, the makings of a whine dangerously apparent.
“Relax, monkey,” I assured her. “We still have a half hour.”
“Well, how long is that?”
A half-hour to a preschooler is an ambiguous thing. It meant as much to her as if I’d said, “yellow turnip honk, honk donkey bottom.”
“Let’s go get some doughnuts,” my wife said, completely bailing me out. Thanks, honey. She took the kids’ hands and led the Boy and the Girl across the street to the alumni area where they served all sorts of sugary things.
The place where we’d spread the blanket was on a nice comfy spot of grass far enough away from the curb the kids would feel some independence, but close enough we could jump up and grab them if they got dangerously close to a moving float.
More people showed up. Some to the left of us, some to the right. That wouldn’t last.
“We’re back,” my wife said, the children each holding a glazed doughnut, her two cups of hot chocolate. “Now, sit on the blanket and don’t knock over your hot chocolate.”
In enough time for the words to have left her mouth, traveled across the few feet that separated her from our children, and rattled around in their heads, the Girl knocked over her hot chocolate. The pool quickly moved downhill. A minute later I noticed the people to the left of us had gone.
“I’m done with my doughnut, and I’m all sticky,” the Girl said, holding up her glazed hands. She’d licked the crusty sugar off the surface of the doughnut, ruining it for anyone else.
“We don’t have any water,” my wife said. “You’re going to have to deal with it.”
Enter the whine.
After a makeshift hand washing with cold coffee, the whine was gone, as was the nice seeming older couple who’d sat to our right. We were alone again; the children had frightened everyone away.
The parade eventually started, more people foolishly taking up the spaces next to us, even though the Boy said “damn it” when his mother asked him to throw a discarded candy wrapper in a nearby trash can.
It’s amazing how children turn into feral beings at parades when candy is involved. The Boy and the Girl homed into any Dum Dums or Tootsie Roll that bounced its way across the asphalt, trampling anyone who got in their way – sometimes even each other. It’s like we don’t feed them, or something.
The parade was over soon enough, a collective mental sigh from parade-goers around us nearly audible. Don’t worry folks; “Those Offutts” will be back next year.

Jason’s latest book, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at amazon.com.

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