I had never been to the down home country parade. It went on every summer. Floats rolled down the main street behind pickups and people threw candy from the parade floats for the children to run out and grab. I hadnt been because i was an introvert that found large crowds of people exhausting and a parade was just another word for “large crowd of people”. However, this year my friend, who has been in the parade every year, asked me to go. She’s probably the human being that is closest to me on this earth right now and so it would have been a “no thank you but you have fun” to anyone else, but i couldnt very well say no to her.
So i set my alarm and i woke up at dawn. I showered and got all the animals food and water. I lathered myself with sunscreen and pulled my hair through the back of a ball cap. I laced up my shoes and loaded the car with keys, my small purse, and a folding step stool to sit on (im so anti-peopling that i dont own a folding chair). I parked at my friend’s house in town. I drove up on her lawn as a few others had, anticipating that the drive would need to stay clear for the float to pull through later. I walked down to a business in town that was vacant for a while and then briefly turned into a little barbecue stand…a lot of people in my town dont have disposable income to eat out all the time and people werent coming often enough for it to stay open. So it closed and then two days ago i learned that our mutual friend’s son and daughter in law had bought it to renovate into an airbnb. I was invited to sit with them in front of it to watch the parade. So i went and i sat. I had recently noted that many buildings that had been vacant for years, fallen into disrepair, and boarded up, were open for business. There was a bougie little store that sold artisan breads, glasses of wine, stoneware, gelato, fresh butchered meats, paninis, vintage furniture, vinyl records, and petrified wood. That store scared the dickens out of me. It had “raised property value” written all over it. I tried to smile and participate but inside i was attempting to calculate how bad these new main street changes could be for my adjustable rate mortgage which was pretty dependent upon property value from year to year. I had bought my land knowing that there was only a dollar general, a gas station, a feed store, and a mexican restaurant in town. Everything else was demolished or dilapidated. Every time someone wanted to build something the locals voted no. I figured the property values would stay pretty steady. But the daughter of a local family decided she wanted to make this town into something that its never quite been…whole. She wanted all the buildings on the main street to be occupied and she wanted it to be a happening place itself, not just an affordable town within driving distance of happening places. This was probably not good for me and instinctually i smelled my own demise. Eventually those who had bought property when this was a nowhere town in a nowhere place would be forced to sell and get out, unable to pay the taxes or rising interest rates on mortgage payments…while the world looked on and said, “you should be happy, you own something of more value now.” Farmers and ranchers dont care how “desirable” their property is. They only care if they can afford to live there. I listened to everyone talk about how this young woman had opened the art gallery in the black stone building and there were plans for other businesses to come, how she wanted to fix our town up, and my heart sank. I wondered how far i would go to hold onto my piece of land. I bought it with the knowledge that the payments would increase throughout the years. In the age of the internet there were now side jobs where you could make money over the internet via something called patreon by basically stripping in front of a webcam. I wondered if i could ever bring myself to do that, if she fixed this town up to the point where i couldnt afford to live here off my nursing home pay check. I chuckled to myself. First i would have to purchase internet, and then probably a webcam. It didnt seem like something i was very likely to pull off. There was a bar and a shop with a thousand potted plants hanging around the boardwalk. People around me were discussing the types of art pieces they had seen inside the new gallery and how artists from new york were given lodging and supplies to create masterpieces on the upstairs floor. I stared at the white lacy curtains of the upstairs floor of the building across from me and tried to imagine this little town becoming more “new york”. Most of the people around me were intrigued by the new changes more than anything else. I guessed they had fixed rate mortgages. My friend’s son and daughter in law saw that this was about to be a happening place and bought the old telegraph station/abandoned building/barbecue stand to turn it into a vacation rental. This nowhere town was about to be a place people went to vacation at. I felt queasy but i promised myself i wouldnt ruin anyone else’s day, including the family with the daughter who was bringing new york artists in (my across the street neighbors) that was well respected in the community and arguably good people. She had a dream. It was in direct opposition to my dream but it was a valid dream nonetheless and who was i to take it from her. I tried to tell myself, “well, you’ll appreciate all the progress one day when you can drive five minutes down the road and buy a snack and a smoothie.” But i knew it was a lie. I told myself i’d figure out the elusive world that was technology when it was time for a webcam…no sense in worrying about it now. My brain didnt get the memo.
The parade arrived and i directed my friend’s grandson to look where the fire engines and police vehicles were leading it down the road. we were sitting near the end of the route so we were seeing them towards the end of their journey and yet they still had plenty of candy and enthusiasm. Vendors walked around shouting about 2 dollar paletas (popsicles) and handing out bubbles for donations to the high school graduation fund. There were several young women in our group with children. One of them bounced a little girl on her knee with curly hair and a red and white headband with a bow. She was all smiles and squinched up her face anytime anyone cooed at her or pretended to tickle her. Everyone marveled at her beautiful ringlets and happy disposition. Beside me sat a mother of three holding a beautiful baby in sage and cream baby clothes with a braided cloth pacifier clip and a drool bib. She was tattooed and had beautiful caramel tanned skin. She wore soft cotton clothes, the kind you would find in a new age sustainably sourced yoga studio/smoothie shop. She was kind and intelligent and just the right amount of saucy. Anyone would have been happy to know her as a friend. She was funny and very chill. Her children were well behaved. Her baby sat content in her arms throughout the whole parade and was unbothered by the sounds of sibling rivalry or sirens in the parade. She discussed with other young mothers how much fun she was having in the new baby phase again, buying him adorable little outfits and accessorizing with different pacifier clips or tiny socks. They discussed different brands and how sweet it was that her baby had such a great disposition and wasnt colicky at all. I watched her with her infant and realized she was the mother any child would hope to have. She was here for it. Soaking up every minute of it and completely alive for her children, and at the same time, a whole person outside of motherhood with jokes and opinions, style, friends, and hobbies. It stung a little bit to watch her, knowing that i was in a life disrupting amount of pain that often rendered me in the hospital but modern doctors had ruled i didnt have a right to a hysterectomy. It wasnt my decision to make. They ruled i must keep my uterus and ovary because i was still of child bearing age and i might be able to use those parts to make a baby some day. I am infertile. If i spend a year in fertility treatments making a baby, i cant carry it to term. If i ever did, it would have all my genetic defects that are hereditary. It seems if God meant me to be a mother, adoption would be the better idea. Perhaps later in my life the foster/adoption system will change their opinion on what constitutes “an ideal parental candidate”. For now, its not me. So, i must tax my liver and kidneys to hold onto these parts that dont work, because society thinks im going to be able to one day make that. I stared longingly at the happy healthy somewhat chunky infant for a time. I forced myself to turn away…look at the parade. I was conscious of the fact that if i wasnt careful my true feelings on the subject were sometimes visible on my face, a burden it was easier for everyone if my friends didnt have to carry with me. Then you can get yourself into a situation where people feel like they have to set their child on your lap every time they see you because you cant have one of your own, or they just arent sure how to deal with the subject and stop being around you with their children in an effort not to cause you pain. I thought, “this is why i cant have a hysterectomy, why i cant be free of mind numbing job interrupting ambulance ride amounts of pain…because those doctors think im gonna be her one day. And they’ll be so vindicated when im holding a happy pudgy baby and im gladly covered in drool and they’ll fold their arms and say, “see, we knew better than you.” But this is a pipe dream. Because i will never be her. People seeking a hysterectomy during childbearing years are not usually the ones with functioning parts. Everyone i know who has gotten one in the generation before mine or tried to get one and been denied…we’ve all been infertile. They are holding the door open for babies that are not possible to bring to fruition. Whatever happened to “my body, my choice”? I guess it only applies to some things.
I have always had an effect with babies. I can smile and they smile back. I dont really have to try very hard to entertain them. They’ll stare at my face for long periods of time as if im mesmerizing and squint up their eyes and smoosh their cheeks into happy baby grins. I soaked this in, staring at his big round eyes which appeared to be turning hazel. He was a joy to sit next to and when my heart couldnt handle it anymore i turned my gaze to the street and waited with camera in hand to photograph the floats.
The parade was pretty impressive. All together there were 50 floats. There was one 27 year old horse named indian that stopped by after the parade following a dip in the river so myself and all the kids could pet his nose and neck. There were two dogs from the animal shelter one town over and a little girl on a four wheeler that was a better driver than any of the adults. There was one float that got a standing ovation with cheering and whistling and hollers everywhere. I didnt understand it at the time but learned the owner of said float was involved in organizing all the parades in the area and had just been diagnosed with cancer and everyone was afraid to lose her. They were all showing her love and support. I wished i’d stood up. The parade was a bittersweet experience for me. I had a lot on my mind. But i had a good time. The floats were all very creative and it was honestly probably the most exciting and largest parade id ever attended. The city nearby had done a christmas parade last year that was mostly just pickup trucks pulling people in a trailer waving surrounded by christmas lights. This parade had a papier mache longhorn that was mooing from speakers attached to the float. There was a statue of liberty with real fire coming out of the torch. Vehicles did a demonstration where they climbed each other in the middle of the road with monstrous tires. There were vintage cars and our firetrucks as well as one of the turtle creek fire trucks. I guess they were on standby for calls since our volunteer fire department was in the parade. After the parade everybody packed up their chairs and followed a woman with a bull horn on a four wheeler riding around shouting that the barbecue and bake sale would be at the park. Everyone except me went to the park. I couldnt eat barbecue and i was pretty near my daily limit for exposure to people so i was undoubtedly happily retreating back to the outskirts of the town where it was just woods, hills, and ranch land. Before walking to the car i forced myself to go into the shop with artisan breads, wine, and vintage furniture. I had a look around. There wasnt really anything i could eat with my allergies and most of the things didnt have price tags on them (not a good sign). The petrified wood was $100 a piece and the records were $34 each. I choked internally. I bought records at goodwill occasionally for 99 cents. I wouldnt pay 34 dollars for one, though i did have a record player. Even beethoven wasnt worth 34 dollars to me when i could get it for 99 cents at goodwill. I wondered if that was what records went for in new york. Maybe they were coming back around there. Or maybe that was just the price that came with being labeled, “vintage”. I had a look around and then quietly excused myself. The people that were inside eating had bought some of the artisan bread and were drinking wine. Their children were playing on the floor. It seemed there were some people here for whom this worked for. Thats what i was afraid of. When people had been throwing candy and plastic cups from the floats, one float had mixed in some pennies with crosses punched through them. I had spent the night before helping my friend tape bible verses to her candy she intended to throw out. Our friday group had made a task of it. After supper we all sat at the table and she dumped bags of candy out and handed us each a roll of tape. By the time the meetup was over we had finished taping all the bible verses to the candy. I held the penny i had picked up in my hand and stared at my skin through the cross shaped hole. Faith is hard. Faith is hard because the little voice in your heart doesnt say, “God wont let you lose your land.” It says, “God will be with you, and you will know his presence, whether you lose the land or not. Whatever happens, his will be done.”