One year the parade came soon after a girl we knew died. They said it was a stroke; later we knew it wasn't that.
The armory at the end of our street spat out tanks with soldiers to drive them, setting forth with thunderous clamorings on inexorable caterpillar tread past our house as past our neighbors' houses, apartment hives cut out of near-mansions, students mostly, some with signs: US out of Nicaragua, No Nukes! some with bandanas, joints, Corona and Bud.
Most years my mother shouted and broke out into dubious kindnesses; she could be good for a snuggle, if seldom; my brothers and sister developed communities of blankness: if I were excluded? everyone becoming what they would be.
My father with a book (Edward Hopper monograph, or The Way of All Flesh) watched white-boot majorettes with flinging legs and flung batons, Cub Scouts, their blue, their badgey bling, yellow neckerchiefs knotted neatly, rows of reservists in camouflage and boots with poles braced in holders just above their groins, flags straining to furl and fold. Ruined men
in reflector sunglasses, beards and wheelchairs, placards that said Vietnam. Or names of other wars. Korea. The World Wars. In diminishing numbers, the First. My father got out of the peace-time draft by being too tall.
We were a family that didn't favor pleasure. I learned this another far day.
I was hungry. For popsicles. Saltines. One year a woman stood near us, crying, and said “I always cry at parades. I always have. I don't know why.” One year a woman stroked my sister's face and crooned Jesus loves you and my mother came shrieking My daughter is Jewish! Which wasn't perfectly true.
That's how we had our own parade before the real parade, by living where the tanks were. That's how we didn't lift a finger. Deep cracks opened in our macadam from tank weight. Their vibrations as they rolled towards us, vibrations that came back to us after they were no longer in sight, pumped into our bodies, rammed in, made us shatter and shiver with sour and mash and choke slushing through our narrow passages and vessels, nerve and vein.