Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Valley Parade thru the Old First Ward

Whenever Sam and I make our yearly foray in the Old First Ward for the Valley Parade, I expect to see a banner straddling South Park Ave. that reads "Welcome to Reagan's America." There are few places that have been so shaped and defined by the politics of a particular era. My unionist Grandfather voted Republican for the first time in his life when he voted for Reagan. For those eight years, my grandfather hung his head as if he had been charmed by a snake oil salesman. In retrospect, industry would have skipped town regardless. Reagan merely bought them their airline tickets.

And to further not blame one person (or a party), there's something particularly American with our abundance of space that makes it easy to use up one place and abandon it for the next more virulent territory. Who wants to keep revisiting the Perry Projects? My father and mother wanted to escape. We took off west.

And because of that, whenever I roll the red wagon through the crowd to weave Sam to our spot in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I do so with all the detachment of a tourist.

This year we went to the parade with Dave. My husband hasn't gone to the parade since he was a teenager and he reluctantly went this year. He gave up drinking years ago as a first big step toward freeing himself from the stereotype of working class guy. I take a moment to see the shadow version of my husband along the parade route. I can imagine him as a teen, reveling in smoking and drinking beer in public but then I can even see him much older, the man he could have been if he hadn't quit, still drinking a little too much, stumbling away from his family to drink a little more, having forgot a long time ago what he wanted for himself. The problem with alcohol is that years of it can make you myopic.

Sam doesn't care about any of this, he likes the floats and the candy and necklaces that gets thrown from them. Our neighbor makes the "Goin' South" float. Every morning as we headed off to school, we saw the construction of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Sam is excited to see it finished.

Then the bagpipes play, I look for my uncles. There's Billy marching with the police as he always does. He is why we're here. This isn't for Billy's benefit, he's been doing this for so long with and without family members showing up, I'm sure he's always surprised when he sees me in the crowd. He waves to Sam. Billy knows we'll leave long before the party begins.

I don't feel like a tourist after I see him. There are many places I've lived but there is only one place that I come back to again and again. Let the rest of America find the next best place, I'm standing still watching for my cousin marching with the Hibernians and our niece Caeley high stepping with her Irish Dance troop, flouncing those fake Irish curls. Maybe reclamation can begin with family~it's why I keep coming back.