Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Philadelphia July 4th Parade!

Back in February, a parade producer contacted me to ask if I wanted to be in the July 4th parade in Philly! I immediately accepted and later found out that Mary, the Delaware Teacher of the Year and Michele, the PA Teacher of the Year, would be in the parade as well. We all had our own drivers and classic cars to ride through the streets!

I sat on the back of a red 1966 Ford Classic Convertible, the guest of a car collecting family who had volunteered to do something nice for teachers. I was propped up on a rim lined with towels - for my comfort - and had the double task of waving my hand to the crowd while swooshing the flag back and forth.

We pulled out to get into the parade line up at half past eleven. Next to me, were over a hundred Chinese Americans in red shirts, large Styrofoam top hats with flags stamped across the paper bands and a collection of dancing dragons. A local high school steel band was edging up next to me on a float. We were all lined up like planes on a runway poised to enter parade world.

I positioned my feet on the back seat of the slow moving convertible to keep my balance. I just dug them in when we would start and stop.

Soon, we drove in front of the parade president and dignitaries who started announcing my arrival with a full bio. Names of my family were intermingled with events and deeds from my history - all on loud speakers. One car length ahead were a pair of volunteers who were carrying a six foot banner with my name and "New Jersey Teacher of the Year" across it.

"Way to go, Maryann! Good Job!" A woman called out and started a thunderous applause.

In fact, the whole street was waving and shouting my name and giving me the thumbs up for teachers. Small children eating cotton candy waved and were so excited when I waved back, specifically at them.

"Nice hat," I said to a little boy. His fingertips moved up to touch the glittery plastic and he smiled.

Each segment of street brought a new wave of applause. It was as magical as being 5 years old and dreaming of riding in Cinderella's pumpkin carriage.

Impossible dreams are sometimes possible.

"Hey, New Jersey!" I looked over and there was Joanna, my good friend from work!

She was snapping pictures like a paparazzi and laughing, while running along the road. It was so great to have someone from my life see what was happening. Half my family is in Spain, running a trip and the other half had other obligations.

Having her there made me believe that what was happening was real!

The car inched along. The streets were lined with cheery Philadelphians eating water ice, melting fast in the hot sun. I saw grinning people in wheel chairs clutching three inch flags. Cops smiled back when I waved.

In 1776, a brave message resounded in these streets - one that the signers of the Declaration of Independence would not have even been able to fully grasp or predict

Americans watching the Philly parade, on July 4th, 2010, came in many races and religions, all equal and all with the right to the pursuit of happiness and equality.

Just a couple of blocks away, the liberty bell herself was soaking up sun through panes of glass. She had seen slavery, women without the right to vote and a time when you had to be white to be an American citizen.

Somehow, through all of those past and current trials and challenges, we are reminded of our core values when we celebrate July 4th.

And today, Philadelphia was indeed "the city of brotherly love."

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