When I was growing up, Memorial Day weekend meant one thing: Our small town’s parade.
Whether for Girl Scouts or Little League, I marched the mile-long route along Main Street and tossed out candy to bystanders. (Except for the one year where my 6-year-old diva self demanded I be pulled in a wagon. Really sorry, Mrs. Brown.)
In a community of about 25,000, the parade was always crowded. In the summers between college semesters, when I became a parade-goer rather than a parade-marcher, we carried our lawn chairs quite a ways from the parking lot we squeezed into.
But the parade is one of my favorite memories of my hometown.
You ended up knowing almost everyone you ran into — wonderful when it was a group of friends, terrible when it was your fifth-grade crush who didn’t know you existed. It was an excuse to visit the hot dog man (yes, we had a hot dog man, our single street vendor) and, if I could convince my parents, Mr. Shane’s for ice cream.
As I got older, I recognized more of the parade’s significance, the way adults stood up and clapped as veterans marched by. I thought of their sacrifice.
It’s been five years since my last Memorial Day parade. I was traveling, then moving, then moving again. Last year (and this year), I made the four- or five-hour trip home to Connecticut for Mother’s Day. I wasn’t (and I’m not) overly eager to trek up I-81 just two short weeks later.
Instead, I’ll spend my time with friends, getting outdoors, trying to stay cool and indulging in spring’s first great offerings of asparagus and strawberries.
But when the sirens ring through Ridgefield to announce the kickoff for its Memorial Day Parade on Monday, my heart will be in my hometown.