The other day, I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV. Perfect blue skies and not a lick of wind.

The one (and only) time I actually saw the Macy’s Parade in person, a few years back, there was a brisk breeze and the balloons gave their hapless handlers quite a ride. They bucked and kicked like untamed broncos (the balloons not the handlers). I expected any moment to see a whole contingent of volunteers  dragged off down a side street as Underdog made a break for it.

I admit to a great fondness for small town parades. Having lived for a while in some very small towns I like the quirkiness and unpredictability of a small-scale home-spun celebration. Years ago I lived and went to college in a farming town (pop. 2,000) in Illinois. One spring they had what I remember as the Dairy Day Parade. I sat on my front step and watched as the parade began winding its way down the street. The participants including that year’s anointed Dairy Princess, seated royally in a convertible, were energetic and waving with quite a lot of panache given that there were only about 20 spectators (including dogs) on my street. Up til that point it was all fun to watch but not particularly memorable…until the motorcade stopped at the intersection at the corner. I don’t remember what was the cause of the ensuing delay but it had an effect similar to a TV newscaster who signs off but the cameras just keep on rolling for a few extra minutes…the smile becomes forced, the eyes strained and the tension grows. It can be painful to watch.

First, the Dairy Princess kept on waving and smiling brightly, then she began switching hands every so often to keep from cramping. But time wore on, the parade did not advance, and to top it off, it was turning into a very warm day. Soon the waves grew intermittent, then stopped. The bright smile clouded over and I could see from my now curbside seat that there was some under-the-breath intense discussion going on between the older driver and the Princess. The spectators (including dogs) watched quietly with occasional murmurs of amusement. I began debating with myself at what point she would just abandon ship and start walking. But she wasn’t Dairy Princess for nothing. She was made of sterner stuff and hung in there even as it began to look like the parade was doomed to end right there that day at my corner after travelling only a few short blocks. What seemed like days but was probably only an hour came to a merciful end when the parade ahead jolted into motion and the now somewhat bedraggled Princess once again turned on that megawatt smile and waved vigorously at the few spectators remaining.

The dogs were long gone in search of shade.