Fourth of July parade leads to new tradition

I hate it.

We’ve had the picnic table for about as long as we’ve been married, and before that it belonged to my mother-in-law, who used it when my wife was a kid.

“You know we could buy a new picnic table, don’t you?” I asked my wife, decades ago.

“I like this one,” my wife said.

“I don’t,” I said.

“Too bad,” my wife said.

“I see,” I said, even though I never see when my wife says, “Too bad.”

It’s odd that I hate the picnic table, given the fact that we now only use it during the annual Fourth of July Bike Parade that my wife and Lana, who lives across the street, host.

Actually, I don’t think that I hate the picnic table itself. I think I hate having to find it and set it up. Most of the time the picnic table is in our garage. And when I say “in our garage,” I mean shoved behind a whole lot of stuff that takes forever to move so that I can haul out the picnic table, then haul it out to the parkway in front of our house, clean it and set it up.

Yeah, that’s what I hate.

Monday night was the 17th annual Fourth of July Bike Parade. What happens is that some 50 kids, most of whom I’ve never met, show up on our street to ride their decorated bikes, scooters, wagons or whatever else that moves in parade-like fashion three blocks up the street and back. Their parents, if they’re lucky, wait patiently for them to return. If they’re not lucky they have to walk with their kids to make sure they don’t get lost or crash.

I used to be one of the unlucky parents. The first year of the bike parade our now 20-year-old daughter, Emma, wasn’t old enough to ride a bike without training wheels, so I had to walk with her. The next year, she had just learned to ride her bike without training wheels but was still a bit wobbly, so I walked with her again.

The following year she was on her own and I started the bike parade tradition of sitting in my backyard drinking beer.

It quickly became my favorite tradition.

On Monday night, I videoed the start of the parade. The reason I did that was because my wife told me to video the start of the parade. I videoed the start of the parade and when the kids headed up the street, I followed them for about half a block until I was in front of our house. Then I went to the backyard.

About 30 minutes later, as I was enjoying an ice-cold beer and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station, my wife walked out of the house and onto our patio.

“I could use some help out front, you know,” my wife said.

See, my wife and Lana don’t just host a bike parade, they also host a gathering after the bike parade where they serve lemonade and cookies to the kids and their parents.

So, I went with my wife and helped for a few minutes. Then, when it appeared that my help was no longer needed, I went back to our patio.

A few minutes later, Emma showed up.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” Emma said.

We often have heartfelt conversations like that.

For the second year in a row, Katie, who is Lana’s 21-year-old daughter and Emma’s best friend, wasn’t able to attend the bike parade. Neither, for the first time in at least 15 years, was Laurel Rosenthal, who normally serves as the parade’s grand marshal.

“It’s kind of sad,” Emma said.

Then she asked if she could hang out in the backyard with me, and I said, “Sure.”

So, she did.

And just like that a new tradition was born.