I am sitting here in my bedroom, propped up on the King bed, thirty percent of which is my evening office, seventy percent of which is my dog’s personal lounge parlour, with my laptop on my lap. I spend a lot of time here, in this position, pillows stacked behind me, client notebooks stacked at my side, a collection of half empty Coke Zeros on the dresser, because it’s a comfy way to work, and because I love myself too much to skimp on effervescence. There is a breeze, blowing through my window, and I can hear city sounds. Inner city sounds; the thump thump thumping of some country tunes enticing partygoers to milk the last yeehaw from the week of all things cowboy that is the Calgary Stampede.
I am no cowgirl, but I not-so-secretly LOVE the Stampede. I am a kid at a birthday party. I feel part of it all, complicit in choosing to rejoice over more serious endeavours and enterprises, like problem solving and WORK. I have memories from childhood, of my single mom and aunt taking us to the parade one year. My pretty mom’s face lit up with our giddy anticipation, dressing us in jeans and flannels, and then it’s a montage; of braided horses and multicultural princesses waving from tiaras and fans and feathers and veils; of funny men in red tasseled hats driving tiny airplanes and honking; of bands blasting incomprehensible music; pancakes drowned in gluey sweet syrup. The ladies (as we now refer to my mom and aunty) took us to a café somewhere in the middle of it all, and I have this visceral memory of my mom biting into a muffin that had a chunk of soap baked into it. Her screwed up face, and then my aunt’s mirroring her dismay. I can taste it vicariously, at my young age of 9 or 10, the glutinous sour of my mom’s vulnerability, and it unnerves me, in this case to a world of cruel and indifferent bakers, but it is a harbinger of other cruelties to come.
The bus ride home is congested and stifling. Thirty degree sun beats at angles through the glass, barbequing my sister and I in our long sleeved Western apparel (my mom was a student to boot, and would have had to pull a rabbit from hat to dig anything remotely “themed” from the closet). I weary —dozing off and slumping onto the shoulder of a special needs adult, who is struggling to eat Cheezies in such a way that I will never care for orange food again. At the end of the scene my Mom is calling to me, under her breath, trying to nudge me awake. And then the montage jumps a generation, and gives way to myself and my girls, the delirious mornings in which I ran at 5am, so I could shower, decorate the children into tiny cow people, and navigate my way through the streets, stroller crammed full of enough snacks, drinks, clothing changes, hats, and miniature fold up lawn chairs to sustain us through a nuclear winter, all for a curbside spot at the spectacular spectacle.
I became a vigilant protector of the parade tradition. I willingly took on crowds as a solo parent, the only one in my marriage who enjoyed throngs of people. Nothing got in my way, year after year. Not accidentally sleeping in (we can make it I cried, and somehow we found ourselves by a truck and some kind stranger lifted my eldest into a prime viewing position, while my little one straddled my shoulders). Not terrible twos, threes, fours, and counting. Not naysayers, nor inclement weather. Not exhaustion or flus. Nothing, until about two years ago, when my youngest announced that she just wasn’t really into it anymore; too hot and too crowded for her taste, and while I meant to take my own inner child SOLO, I couldn’t find it within myself to arrive without a buddy; to yell my loudest, proudest yeehaw’s without my kiddies’ embarrassed eye rolls concealing their hidden joy, to egg me on.
Well I’m letting you in on a secret. I cried. Yes, you are receiving weekly guidance from a woman who wept like a baby over missing a parade. As it swung full swing, I was not after all, fine with it. I had lied to myself. Don’t force them. Don’t force it. It’ just a parade. Sniffle. Honk. Snuffle. Snort.
And now I was sorry to little me, and swore I would never miss again. Although truth be told, it may have been the children I was sad about and not the parade at all, a sort of pre empty-nest trauma. Well, the next year, they changed the nearby parade route making it farther and earlier for me. And friends, I was tired. I had taken on all of this business development. I couldn’t bring myself to wake at stupid o’clock to make it, after working until vampire o’clock. It’s not your fault, I said to my inner mommy. You’re trying so hard. And I tried so hard, not to make her feel bad. I’m good. They’ll be other parades. I promise not to cry. Cough. Gulp.
Which brings us to 2019. I awoke that fated first Friday of July with a start that said “not again”. I took action. I looked up the route. I’m going alone I reported to my eldest daughter who was on her way to work. I am going to uber to the route at it’s finish line and I will see the whole damned thing. But my eldest daughter feeling badly for me secretly called my younger daughter, who on account of graduating was feeling nostalgic for her childhood, and awoke declaring that I must wait for her, while she jumped in a quick shower. Time was of the essence, but I reasoned that one hour of a two hour parade, with two of us instead of one, was good math. I geared up, in boots and dress and hat while I waited and waited a bit more. Are you sure about this? Said my inner child. But the promise of a buddy was too good to pass up. Especially a daughter buddy.
We arrived with much pomp and circumstance, with a little mat for sitting on, to a perfect curbside spot. Yeehaw, I warmed up my voice, as a wagon pulled by four weary Clydesdales clomped by, followed by a little more empty space than was comfortable. And then arrived a tiny marching band accompanied by a tightly knit group of shotgun twirlers. No one was smiling or hollering. Well we are watching the tired end of the parade, I joked, jovially. More empty space. Another small band. I croaked out a wimpier yeehaw. I’ll hit my stride, yet, I thought. More empty space. And then there it was. The signature brigade of emergency vehicles and street sweepers that signal the thing has come to an end.
Our parade lasted 7 minutes. It ended an hour before the internet said it would.
My daughter looked at me with dismay, thinking she had saved the day and then this.
It’s okay I said, instinctively. But was it?
We slipped into a Starbucks to regroup.
And then we thought to pop by the restaurant where my sister and my eldest daughter work, and low and behold, the place was dead.
So we all had lunch together.
I brought up the 7 minute parade. Tess argued that we had seen 4 horses and three bands; truly a complete experience. We both brought up the sixty year old Asian lady in the orange coat, who was the most excited parade goer I have ever laid eyes on, dancing and jumping while her family took video footage of her with all four of the parade acts for which we were present. Either she too had just arrived, or she had been pulling folks aside for a solid two hours for photo ops, which is more enthusiasm than perhaps even me!
I didn’t feel sad about it. I don’t feel sad about it now. Strangely, I feel like I was there. Maybe because I said yes. Because I ditched my other priorities in favour of joy, and belonging. And so did she.
Because we all spent a few hours together.
I didn’t let it pass me by, or wish I could UN CARE about it.
Because a parade is never just a parade. It is an expression of hope. It’s a choice to join in. To be a part of a greater force. It’s not about a float, or representing a group, or a town, or a culture. It’s really about the act of representing together. Of spreading joy. Of receiving joy.
When something RAINS ON OUR PARADE, it interferes with our choice for happiness, our celebration, our efforts toward personal joy.
The world unites in sympathy because, beneath all of our hard-assery, tough, survival based hooey, we have a soft spot for happy-good. It’s kind of our raison d’etre. We exist in a relationship with basic happiness that either holds it at bay, or completely blocks it out for fear of the pain of the “rain” in all of its manifestations. We are “tough” or aggressive, or overachievers and pleasers. Or we swing along a pendulum of hope and despair. It loves me, it loves me not. We wander through life plucking daisies for answers, not sure how to find it.
The parade, is our end goal, friends. Everyone hooting and hollering and supporting one another in basic happy.
The SECRET is, that it’s not always where we think it is (or when, lol).
So when the rain comes, go ahead and cry. Give yourself a hug. Get yourself a hug. Hug your dog, or your hamster (but do so gently because they have small arms).
I am telling you that joy can’t be lost, but it can be obscured by pain. And when we answer the pain, the skies tend to clear, RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS appear. They feel like miracles. And they are miracles, its just that they have been there all along.
Pain tell us something has fallen off course. It needs correction. It’s a GLITCH. The engine light is on. It is never convenient to feel it, but you can’t just masking tape over it and expect the car to keep running smoothly.
The rainbow at the end of the rain, or pain, is not a consolation prize, or a sticker at the bottom of the BRAN cereal (unless you like bran then substitute SHIT cereal for your personal metaphor). We are not supposed to CONTENT ourselves with a scrap to remedy a whole box of crap and say ‘good enough for me’.
The rainbow is the joy that can never leave us, but at times we cannot see. It’s the inextinguishable goodness that is there all along. Once the lonely, scared, sad part of me got some attention and some TLC, and in this case some decided action on her behalf well it took over, again.
My “rainbow” was racing to a parade and missing it, and laughing about it, and spending an afternoon with the people I love most, in a way I would never have ordinarily. There was no loss there. Once I answered the cry of loss. Even if I wasn’t elegant, or perfect at the whole damned thing.
But don’t be surprised if I set an alarm next year.
So one last Happy Stampede y’all.
And if you hear some loud wailing on Wednesday night at midnight? Well that means the day has transpired and I have not won the dream home, and WHAT!!!??? Some force outside myself has not solved all of my problems, again, SIGH. You will find me at the hamster club called Petland with my portable lawn chair, hugging it out with the cutest creatures in heaven and earth. And until I remember that I am the MOFO winning lotto, BITCHES (and SO ARE YOU), I’ll be taking my appointments there.
— Love Erin
|P.S. I’m setting up my fall schedule. If you’d like a spot waiting for you when the summer shenanigans wind down talk to me.|
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