When my children were little we lived on a street with no driveways. The historic area of La Mesa Village was lined with houses and backed up by allies on each side of the road. No driveways made it easy to walk, learn to
ride a bike,skateboard or draw hopscotch with colored chalk. So I couldn’t really object when my daughter came to me as July 4th approached on year and said, “Mama, can we put on a parade?”
Molly invited the dozen or so children on the street to join in. I bought a cassette tape of John Sousa marches that we set in a red flyer wagon. Molly, who later graduated from FIDM in fashion design, was in charge of costumes and we scoured our dress-up trunk for everything from Mary Poppins and Bert to Jerry Mahoney and Snow White to Uncle Sam and Mickey Mouse.
The kids marched up the street, then down the street, then did it again and then did it a third time. Neighbors sat on their steps and waved the little American flags that the realtors stuck into our lawns. The local newspaper took a photo. At the end, everyone gathered on my front lawn to eat juicy slices of watermelon and spit the seeds into the rosebeds. It was grand.
Actually, I had been in a parade at about that age when my father, Sam Bua, was Honorary Mayor of Highland Park, one of the Northeast suburbs of Los Angeles. My sisters and I were in pretty dresses in the back seat of a convertible jalopy while my Dad was smiling and waving. People knew my dad. There were lots of smiles and waves in return. I was so embarrassed.
A few years later I was in another a parade as managing editor of the Daily Californian newspaper. I wore a red jacket with silver sequins sprinkled across the collar and shoulders. I waved from the white convertible and no one knew who I was and that was fine with me.
A decade later Molly was the Mother Goose Parade maid of honor and perched on her float to clapping fans. She wore the same blue satin gown in the Columbus Day parade in Little Italy. A real marching band provided the music and children waved because she was smiling and beautiful and dressed like Cinderella.
Not too many years later it was my job to negotiate with the San Diego Police regarding the Gaslamp Quarter Mardi Gras parade. They wanted to shut it down — too many variables, too many college kids throwing beads, too many girls standing topless in hotel windows lining 5th Avenue. But the kids loved it!
Mardi Gras was that last Harrah! before the piety of the Easter season set on reminding everyone other, ancient parades of sin and bloodshed and death, along with political posturing between Romans and Hebrews and assigning blame. The Palm Sunday parade of support and the Good Friday parade of shame up the winding path to Golgotha culminated in the Resurrection Sunday discovery that Jesus rose from the dead. No parade, just hearts changed for the rest of eternity.
The Gaslamp Mardi Gras Parade went on that year, Councilmember Wear and his family rode in an open jalopy this time and, again, the waves were genuine. The staff rode in a street trolley donated by Old Town Trolley company. No one could really see us or knew who we were, but people waved anyway. Because that’s what people do in parades. They wave until the last tuba toots. Then they pack up their things, take the kids home, wash their faces and hands and post pictures on social media.
Bob Goff, the outstanding spiritual leader, author of Love Does, world humanitarian and Ambassador to Uganda started a parade on his street in Point Loma years ago. But there was a catch. You couldn’t watch, you had to participate. If the parade went by, you couldn’t sit on the sidelines, you had to join in, be part it, march, dance, skip or twirl, but you have to be part of the parade. No one can watch the parade go by. Brilliant.
This is the type of parade that America needs right now. Everybody in. We know who’s stepped into the parade because they are our neighbors, our kids, our neighbor’s kids. The parade is made up of our teachers, store owners, grocery clerks, people in line at the food bank, shoppers at the thrift stores, black teenagers without jobs, football captains, painters, babysitters, beauty queens, politicians and window cleaners.
We are the parade.
Be the parade.