The Fourth of July parade in Marenisco, Michigan (population 1,051), is an annual spectacular that consists mostly of classic cars, firetrucks from the volunteer fire department, and the marching band from the high school two towns over (the school in Marenisco--home of the Marenisco Milltowners, not to be confused with the Watersmeet Nimrods, who hail from about 30 miles farther east down Highway 2--closed a couple of years ago).
When I was little, the highlight of this parade, aside from the candy that was flung by the handful from the posterior ends of the firetrucks, was Smokey the Bear, who always stood, steadfast and waving, in the bed of a pickup truck for the length of the four-block parade route. For many years, I was convinced he was waving at me personally. Sadly, Smokey disappeared a while ago, but the candy-flinging continues to this day.
This was my Ho’s first experience with my family’s traditional Fourth of July festivities. He wanted to change his shirt before going to town, but I assured him that, having most of his own teeth and a shirt with actual sleeves, he would already be well ahead of most of the locals in terms of fashion. So he went ahead with the one he had on.
It all played out just as I told him it would. Our caravan of cars parked in the same spot as always. My dad went across the street to Dutch’s bar to purchase a can of Old Style to go, which they sold him with no questions asked, even though it was 10:45 a.m. The remains of the local VFW wobbled past with their wooden guns. Only one child toppled off of her streamered bicycle. We received a theological lesson in the form of a bible verse (Corinthians, I believe) hand-lettered onto glittery posterboard. Candy was flung, flags were waved, and the whole thing was over in about fifteen minutes. Then we all headed to the town hall for lemonade and free ice cream cones. As my grandma used to like to say, "‘twas ever thus."
Grandma also used to steal our free ice cream cones, but that’s another story.
At dusk we returned to town to watch the fireworks. This involves driving our car onto the football field behind what used to be the Marenisco school, parking on the grass with the rest of the town, and then watching a bunch of guys of questionable sobriety fire pyrotechnics into the sky over our heads from the top of a hill about 100 yards away. By some miracle, to my knowledge, no one has ever been killed during this endeavor. Not yet, anyway.
As she has done in the past, my irreverent and oh-so-witty sister Betsy had brought along her Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits CD especially for the occasion, and as the fireworks began, we set my boombox on top of my car and fired up "They're Coming to America" (Today! Today!). There were moments when it seemed as if the fireworks were choreographed in time with the music. It was... strangely beautiful. And highly amusing, because, as everyone knows, Neil Diamond is ALWAYS funny.
This year, however, there was a new twist. A search through the bowels of my mom’s PT Cruiser had produced a post 9-11 relief CD full of additional patriotic delights, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Star Spangled Banner, Celine Dion’s interpretation of "God Bless America" (I know, she’s Canadian, but America made her rich, so it’s really quite appropriate if you think about it) and, of course, the scourge of the seventh inning stretch, Lee Greenwood’s anthem for every armchair warrior uber-patriot in middle America, "God Bless the USA." Please pass the tissue.
Cousin Donna, who was clearly confused, came to me said, "Do you REALLY like this song?" I reassured her that, no, I hate that song with every fiber of my being. We were being IRONIC.
But it seems that she wasn’t the only one who didn’t get the joke. When the show was over, several locals stopped by our car and thanked us for the wonderful music.
We didn’t bother trying to explain it to them.