A short excerpt from Lisa33, by Dan Allan.

"We live north of Boston, one of those self-consciously quaint New England towns--freshly painted white fences and a town green with a bandstand, and an ice cream shop that calls itself a creamery. (We're supposedly just two towns over from John Updike, although I don't know anyone who has actually seen him and I'm honestly not sure whether he really exists or is just a fictional creation of some novelist, perhaps John Updike himself or perhaps some other writer who writes about New England writers.)

Well, Sunday was parade day in our town (*I'm not ready to tell you the name of it), and that is what I am going to describe. The theme of this year's parade was "Togetherness." (Of course they always pick really controversial issues for these parades. I think for next year's parade I will suggest "Ratifications of the GATT" for the theme. Or else, possibly, "Ethnics Go Home.")

This last observation is really quite unfair and not what I want to say at all. It's a pretty conservative, homogeneous town, but mostly the people are nice. And really the parade experience was remarkably affecting--that is what I'm going to describe: one of those perfect fall days, blue skies traversed by little white cloudlets, and chilly gusts that send the leaves flying, orange and yellow, out of the trees and swirling everywhere, and people crowding all along the sidewalks. You take your child's hand and walk up to the parade together--past the Methodist church (this week's sermon, "The Meaning of Gratitude"), past the smiling old lady walking her dog, and onto main Street. And without even realizing you have chosen a spot, suddenly there you are, there at your place along the parade route, child on your shoulders, his small hands wrapped around your fingers, holding on, and you hear it in the distance: at first just a low rumbling, a drumming, faint music, then swept off in a gust, and then there again, slightly louder, closer, band music, and then suddenly in front of you, blaring, loud, The veterans of Korea 102nd Division Marching Band, in full splendor. And you feel your son bouncing on your shoulders, feel his excitement above you, and the rest passes by you magically, like you are in a dream--clowns on unicycles, sparkling red fire engines, the banners, "Tina's Dance Studio--40 Years," and then behind it the dance troupe of eight-year-old ballerinas, knobby kneed, off-balance, twirling, the float from the local florist shop--pink-and-white mums, the balding politician waving from an antique convertible, and your son wrapping his little hands in your hair, and then a musket battalion, a wagon pulled by Clydesdales, another marching band, full of sour notes, from the middle school.

It feels like it's all happening in a dream. But the strange thing is this: it actually brings a tear to your eye. Because you know that even though you live there, even though it is your home, and you are a part of it, in your heart you know you don't belong there, you never will belong there, because you can never be a part of something that innocent and that perfect. There is no point in mocking the place or the people because the problem is not with them. It is with you. You don't belong.

And so when the fly-over arrives, the grand finale, and the old-fashioned bombers dip down over main street, streaming smoke behind them in red and white and blue, you can't help imagining real bombs falling, the people scattering, the screaming and mayhem, the dead and the wounded scattered about the street, the moaning, the ambulances, the tears to go with your own.

Then it's over. You head home, carrying your son because suddenly he has stepped in front of you and reached his arms up and looked up pleadingly--too tired to walk.

And at home you see your wife and you see that this is where she is happy, where she should be, and you know you will never be rid of that feeling. You are alone with it and you will never be able to express it and it will always be with you."

There is more to say, but I will not cross-polinate this topic with those comments.

Another time, perhaps. Later.

I can't really think of anything to add to the snippet above, so I'm letting it stand alone. After all, that is the topic.

Saturday, April 30, 2005


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