In your parade, don’t forget to laugh!

Friday, November 1 was a busy day.

At nine that morning, I met Joe Andrews at Trinity UMC for a meeting with a gutter contractor. 

Next, I was scheduled to be at J. R. Tucker High School for a groundbreaking ceremony.

Then back to Trinity for some final preps for a one o’clock funeral. We lost a long time member, and a really sweet lady, Rachel Habel. This prep involved a skirmish with the technology gods to get a slide show to cooperate.

By 12:25, I was scrambling out of Trinity heading to the other side of the county for another groundbreaking ceremony at Highland Springs High School.

Once this ceremony was over, I hustled back to Trinity. When the funeral reception was finished in the Welcome Center, we had to make sure the Sanctuary and Welcome Center were ready for a 4:30 wedding rehearsal.

With the help of the ushers from the funeral, and Trinity office manager, Paula Cadden, both areas were put back in shape.

My school board hat was put on again for my next Friday afternoon assignment, the Douglas Freeman High School Homecoming Parade.

If you know me at all, being in the limelight is not my comfort zone. Riding in a convertible, waving and smiling at strangers, while occasionally tossing candy toward children along the route is not my strong suit. But, there I was.

Our neighbor’s, Dan and Nancy Heller, had kindly agreed to let their maroon Mustang convertible be my ride for the event. Around 4:50, Dan drove me over to the staging area in the parking lot of the newly renovated Tuckahoe Middle School. We picked up the sign for the car, secured it to the passenger side, and positioned the car into our #4 slot.

Now, the last time I was in a homecoming parade was on October 9, 1970 in my hometown, Burlington, North Carolina.

My best friend, John Huffman, was escorting our classmate, Maggie Runyon, for some organization at Walter Williams High School. Maggie secured a  Cadillac convertible for me to drive down Main Street. The Caddie was like a battleship. I’m thankful no parallel parking was required.

Now, here comes the confession. I was a senior in high school. But, I had not completed all of the requirements for having an official North Carolina driver’s license.

I drove that Caddie down Main Street past countless police officers. Luckily for me, there were no opportunities for a fender bender. But, there was one challenge near the end of the parade route.

My mother who happened to work in one of the office buildings along Main Street had stepped outside for a few minutes with co-workers to watch the parade. When my mother saw me behind the wheel, I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head.  

Thankfully, when I arrived home, my mother and father did not kill me. Clearly, they would have been within their rights to do so. 

This can be verified in the trusted manual,  the Parental Guide For Attempting To Raise Teenagers, Chapter 42, page 3,499, section 220, citation 27 states: “Parents do have permission to harm a teenage son who drives a convertible Cadillac in a homecoming parade without the proper driving credentials from the state of residence.”

Now, in truth during my ride along the parade route on Three Chopt Road on this beautiful November afternoon, I was nervous. 

I could envision a police car from Burlington pulling in behind the Mustang with its blue lights flashing. Headlines scanned through my brain—School Board Member Apprehended In Homecoming Parade—North Carolina Police Officers Serve A 49 Year Old Warrant.

Luckily that didn’t happen, but I reckon if Bernard P. Fife was still around, I would have reason to keep looking over my shoulder.

I suspect the only people who might have been upset with me in the homecoming parade were the parents of young children. 

I gently tossed  pieces of candy toward them. I’m sure this was a big hit with the parents since Halloween had been the night before. But, I could reason an alternate take with the candy tossing— it might render future business for local dentists.

Well, the parade route gradually came to an end. 

We were directed into the parking lot beside the high school. A nice lady clipped the sign off the passenger side door. Dan parked the Mustang in an adjoining lot. We walked over to Three Chopt Road and watched the remainder of the parade.

We found our wives. They had been joined by our son, Andrew his wife, Kathryn, and my little Miss Mess, their daughter, Josie.

The parade ended. I had been lucky. Even though there had been 49 years between my parade appearances, the fall weather was perfect. As we know, this parade we are in everyday—called life isn’t always perfect.

Scan the headlines from your preferred news feed for a few seconds, and you will find an abundance of our imperfections. Most of those headlines worry me and hurt my old heart.

In the fall of 1979, I was an English teacher at Hermitage High School. I had lots of prep to do everyday to be ready for my parade of sophomore and junior students. The American literature book for the junior students contained some of the work of writer James Thurber.

Mr. Thurber was a gifted writer—he made me laugh.

I always loved this quote from Mr. Thurber:  “Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”

In the emotional chaos of your parade of life, I encourage you to find those moments of tranquility, find that humor, and laugh.

Laugh at your parade for a few seconds. Go ahead, your heart will appreciate it.

After all, Ecclesiastes 3:4 granted authorization: “a time to laugh.”

Perhaps, that is why God is still around—in all of his emotional chaos, I suspect sometimes— He laughs.

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