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Issue Date:  August 27, 2004



The late start only added to the anticipation. People lined both sides of the street. From down the block we heard and saw the sirens go off. The parade had started. The police car and fire engines were coming. Seated on the curb, Brendan craned his neck to get a better look. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a sweltering Saturday afternoon -- sitting with my son watching our neighbors celebrate our community.

Following the police and fire trucks came the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a booming marching band, the Girl Scout troop sans cookies, a few city politicians, the swim club with young men squirting you with their water guns, a beauty queen preening from the backseat of her convertible, the pet shop owner with his dog, a motorcycle club, the plumber to whom we sent far too much money, and representatives of other local businesses.

It goes without saying, candy was everywhere. Brendan and I made out better than a ghost on Halloween.

Next came the neighborhood floats. The first had a “Summer of Love” theme. With Jimi Hendrix blaring, this one celebrated a time that many of us look back to longingly, often forgetting the revolutionary movements that coursed through the ’60s. A patriotic theme was next. It made me wonder what was being celebrated: America take it or leave it? Or a patriotism that encourages a critical engagement of our country’s policies and actions within our borders and throughout the world? The last one focused on Hawaii. Led by Sponge Bob, it made you think of the gentle waves and soft sands of the Pacific.

The best one had to be the Cicada Jazz Funeral float. Every 17 years, countless cicadas invade Cincinnati for several weeks during the summer. They come out of the ground, mate and then die. It was only proper to give them a fitting send-off. Thus, in traditional New Orleans style, with jazz playing, memorialized by instrument-playing and umbrella-carrying mourners, the cicadas were buried with the knowledge that they would return in 17 years.

Whether civic or religious, parades (or processions) are important reminders of the journey that we’re all on. While some are sad, on this Saturday I got to celebrate with my son, just how joyous life can be. We’re looking forward to Labor Day.

Mike Daley teaches theology at Xavier High School in Cincinnati.

National Catholic Reporter, August 27, 2004

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