Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ticker tape, the Giants and dad's shoulders.

The  sky was grey, it was crowded, and the weather was colder than  Kate Gosselin’s smile. And yet none of that mattered because Underdog was floating past me, up in the sky, larger than life. Perhaps most surprising though, he was also in Living Color, complete with bright red standard-issue superhero tights and a blue cape. Who knew? Mostly this was remarkable to me because  I had only seen him on our black and white Zenith TV, which also meant that it was not just Underdog, but Mr. Rogers, Big Bird and Easy Reader who were rendered in a surprisingly small number of grey, grainy hues.

That being said, it was exactly the sort of day that a six year old never forgets because it was not just my first Thanksgiving Day parade, but an adventure in the city with my dad.

My father is an interesting guy for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most important to me is that he’s a guy who straddled a transitional period in our culture when notions of what success, family and fatherhood meant were shifting. He was in some ways entirely traditional: each morning he left before everyone else was  up to catch a train to the city where he worked at a mysterious job in a mysterious skyscraper. He then came home around dinnertime and read a paper while listening to the news. (He did, however, wisely avoid the pipe and martini thing which thankfully remains in the dustbin of dad-history. There are some clichés that no one can pull off, short of an Adolphe Menjou or Claude Raines.)

Traditional as he may have been, though, my dad made a conscious decision to (mostly) not work late, not bring work home and to not work on the weekends. He had made a calculation about what was important to him and then made it his business to be present in our lives even though it must have cost him professionally. Sure, we could probably have lived in a bigger house and had cooler cars, but I was luckier than that.

And so that’s why I’m assuming that even more memories are being made today at the Giant’s victory ticker tape parade. The streets are lined with families dressed in blue and there are little kids on shoulders watching bigger than life figures make their way down the canyon of heroes. But here’s the thing, even if you didn’t make it to New York today there are still plenty of opportunities to get outside with the kids and see the weird and wonderful things that only happen in a parade.

An obvious one is the St. Patrick’s to-do in either Pearl River or New York, but there are more parades than you would suppose. Try the Columbus Day parade, or the weird and creative Halloween parade in Nyack. And in case you didn’t know, there’s an annual Volunteer Firefighters parade to be watched.

Or, have you ever had the urge to see a 30 foot Dora the Explorer? Of course you haven’t, but your kids want to, so make sure to hit the easy-to-navigate Thanksgiving Day Parade in Stamford. It’s actually extra cool because it features a whole herd of full sized balloons.  And of course there’s the far more hilarious and entertaining Halloween parade in the Village, but, well, you know. Take the teens.

So anyway,  even though Eli Manning probably won’t be at any of those wearing red tights and blue cape, your kids won’t care. Just make sure they get a turn on your shoulders. Do it.

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