I’m of a mind that the sidewalk down our blocks becomes once a year the Brigadoon enclave of all the extant folding-aluminum-lawn-chairs-with-woven-strap-seats. Those backyard and beach mavens of the past are all stored somewhere special for the rest of the year, I think, those symbols of cookouts and cocktails and coolers of beer, all silent and taking their ease in the dusty dark like dollar-store warehouses of
Vegas neon or Mardi Gras Krewe.
Folks line up at ten, I imagine, for when we arrive at five-til-time, they’re all established, these partakers of patriotism and local flavor: chairs and umbrellas and coolers and flags, with children in colors with flags on their clothes, their hats, speared through ponytails and beltloops, children in costumes, children in tiny Tigger and Barney and Tinkerbell seats of their own, awaiting the mystical Rainfall of Tootsie Rolls, and the scent of Coppertone and cigarettes wafts on the breeze.
The approaching thrum of powerful engines heralds the motorcycle brigade---a dozen strong, and each the ideal of Protect and Serve, these muscular, fit Ken-men in badges with their Police Poster perfection. They turn and swoop and figure-eight in a ballet of bikes, with the noise and the smoke but a part of their glamour and power.
Flags and floats and walkers in slogan-T’s, honoring or hawking their group or church or candidate, and every red convertible not downtown eases by, with its colorful banner and a smiling candidate or queen-of-something waving at the crowd.
Bands herald their own arrival, with the cadence and the thoom of drums stirring the heartbeat from two blocks back, while the two vintage John Deeres and four Allis Chalmers make their elephant-walk past.
And the proud, strong soldiers---we’ve seen them go from butternut to khaki to deep olive to green camo to brown-and-tan and back to the almost butternut/beige, with their boots morphing from spit-shined black to paler-than-buckskin suede. But the faces---those faces of strength and courage---they never change, and our hearts kvell at just the thought of them.
The bands, unlike this blessedly unseasonal day today, are gleaming with the shine of brass and braid, and faces almost always glistening with trickles of sweat beneath their shakos and baseball caps. I cannot imagine a parade without sweat---it’s like the life-energy of all that hustle and stomp and breath-it-takes-to-play-five-songs-while-marching-twelve-blocks in July.
I can see the faces, hear the music, feel my heart stirred by the day and the beat---all that martial rhythm in the sense-memory harking to battlefields ago. The old
Cannon, timed perfectly with the 1812,
gives a chilling déjà vu to Lexington and Bunker
Hill, Merrimac and Monitor and Maine, to Gettysburg and
and all the other places-of-peril in which brave soldiers perished or
persevered. Just that sound---that deep
deadly boom which rattles our windows from a mile away on occasion---that’s an
eternal memory on this remembering day. Vicksburg
I sit out here in the calm cool shade of the patio, coffee in hand and a wall at my back, on this most-Un-July day, with the echoes and the blasts and the thrums and cannon booms, and fireworks for blocks around punctuating this two-hundred-and-thirty-seventh anniversary. My reflections swirl the images like water---the skies and the earth and the smoke and the red-white-and-blue, and all the sounds whirling in a long-ago memory of reveille and charge and Taps.
From my way-through-the trees remove, all the experience filters through as a brave pentimento on the page, as surreal as glimpses of red coats through the trees of an April-morning fog, and it’s real enough, for this day.
It’s generations, a handshake, a passing of a torch. And I’ve heart-seen it one more time.