Monday May 26, 2003 11:58 PM
Memorial Day 2004

Today was the 136th running of the Alton Memorial Day parade. People say it's the oldest one in the nation. I don't know if that's true, but I like to believe it.

The day started way early for me. I'd stayed up till after 2 am tinkering under the hood of this very website (Did you notice the new widget beside the logo at the top of the page? Give it a try and see what happens. If you don't see it, your browser can't do it anyway.) and I'd set my first alarm for 8 am. The parade started at 10 and the route passes just a few blocks away, but I figured we probably should leave at 9:30 to get up there with time to spare. Beside that, I needed to clear off some floppy disks for my camera. I'd meant to get a new box of floppies for the parade, but I didn't get the chance so I planned on scraping the files on a bunch of them to my hard drive and then erasing them to take new pictures on.

We'd borrowed Rupie's stake-side wagon yesterday to haul all our junk- lawn chairs, drinks, my camera, Ruth's purse, snacks. While I was processing disks and Ruth was getting the wagon loaded down with all the stuff, the phone rang. Her brother Mark called to ask if he and a buddy could park in our driveway and walk to the parade. Of course this was no problem. If somebody's going to park in my driveway it might as well be somebody I know. Mark and Missy arrived in Mark's red Grand Am and his buddy and his wife and kid parked and started walking up the street.

Finally I got enough disks done and the wagon was loaded with everything but the chairs. I locked the door and said I'd get a couple of lawn chairs off the back porch and put them in the wagon when Isaiah let out a wail.

"I want to ride in the wagon!"

"But Son, we got it to haul all our stuff, not you."

"I want to ride in the wagon!"

"Come on I-"

"I want to ride in the wagon!"

So I threw the chairs back on the porch, put the boy in the wagon, and hauled him up the road with Ruth right behind us. The sidewalks grew far more crowded as we approached the route of the parade. We weren't worried about finding a place to stand, though. We've been standing in exactly the same spot for 3 or 4 years now and my mom always shows up early and blocks out some space for us. Rupie was going to be waiting with her with Ruth's folks and their friend Donna. Mark and Missy and their friends were there, too. When we arrived our traditional section was populated with our folks and plenty of room for us. Mark's buddy has a son a little a bit younger than Isaiah and they quickly became pals, sitting next to each other in the wagon which I'd taken one side off of to make a nice bench for them to sit on.

I've been taking pictures of this parade for the past four years and I'm getting a little better at it. At least I'm becoming able to take the same old pictures with less hassle and frustration. The parade follows a certain format each year, but though there's always some of the same things to see each year, there's always something interesting. At one point, when McGruff the crime dog (I didn't manage to get a shot of him) passed by, the D.A.R.E.people were tossing out loot among which was a can cooler that Ruth virtually plucked out of the air.

Like a scene from The Matrix, time froze as the cooler ever-so-slowly described a gentle arc in our direction while Ruth in bullet-time reached out over the heads of the unmoving crowd to grasp and clutch the prize. Actually, it came right to her and she was as surprised she caught it as the rest of us were, but a catch is a catch accidental or not and it fit around Isaiah's drink just fine.

After the parade we walked back home and bade farewell to our parkers, though we'd see one car-full of them later on at the Denby's house. After they left, I actually managed to find a few minutes to spend on one of my favorite pastimes: reading a good book on the back porch. A few, I say, but not many. Before I was quite ready it was time to load up the van and head to Ruth's folks' house.

The Memorial Day cookout bash at the Denby's is another tradition of the day. Today was only a medium sized crowd. The greatest number enjoying the most temperate Memorial Day in recent memory with us in the back yard at one time was 12, not counting Kroger or our as-yet unborn youngest child who was present but not visible. There were some who came and went but everybody had a good time whether they arrived for lunch or just to visit.

Isaiah, of course, probably had the best time of all of us. He not only got to visit with everybody and run around in the yard and slide on the sliding board, he got to lead several archeological expeditions to the heart of the arid desert of his sandbox in search of dinosaur bones. I had the privilege of being his primary assistant on a couple of the journeys. Grandpa Denby and Uncle Mark filled that role on the other trips.

There was more vittles than you could shake a hick'ry stick at and surely more than we could all eat. I grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, and chicken tenders. At first I thought the chicken tenders on the grill wasn't such a good idea, but they turned out to be (in my opinion) the best thing on the menu today. Kroger couldn't believe her luck when I dropped a whole hamburger on the ground. I pointed at the stupid thing and told her to eat it, but I guess it still seemed too incredible to be true until Ruth came over to and her it was "for the puppy". After that it didn't last long.

After lunch at about 1:30 we visited and continued to relaxe outside until about 7 when we started loading all our stuff back in the van along with a fresh batch of leftovers. Isaiah stayed awake almost all the way home. I looked in the mirror and saw that his eyes were open about a mile or so from home and wondered if he'd make it, but when I looked again at the next stop sign, he was fast asleep. Kroger was pretty well done-in, too. When we got home, I put Isaiah on the couch in the living room where he sawed logs till just a few minutes ago.

As I was working on this item, Farscape, one of my favorite TV shows, was on. Isaiah stirred some on the couch and I didn't want him to wake up since Farscape is definitely not something he needs to watch, so I went over and wrapped the blanket around him and stuck a teddy bear in his arms. I thought he'd gone back to sleep, but in a few minutes I heard:

"I think I'm ready to wake up now."

"Isaiah, it's not time to wake up. You dozed all the way through tonight and now it's time to stay asleep. Do you want to sleep here or go up to your bed?"

"I want to go up to my bed."

"OK, I'll take you," I said as I picked him up.

"And I need a story."

'We'll have a story, too. Tell Mommy goodnight quietly- she's already asleep," I said as we passed by the recliner.

"Goodnight, Mommy," he whispered as I stepped on the bottom stair, "Oh, hey, Daddo... What was that space show I was hearing down there when I was waking up?"

"That's a show that's way too scary for you so don't worry about it, OK?"

After a story and our prayer, Memorial day 2004 was officially over and now, since I have to get up for work tomorrow, so is this account.