How it all began

This column first ran in July, 2002

My wife and I wore cute, matching T-shirts Tuesday night.

I hate cute, matching T-shirts. The only matching T-shirts I like are those “I’m with Stupid” shirts Geraldo Rivera and Bill O’Reilly wear when they appear in public together.

The matching T-shirts my wife and I wore were patriotic Fourth of July shirts.

When I say “patriotic” I mean it in the sense that large, trendy retailers take regular cheap T-shirts made in Honduras, slap an American flag on them, jack up the price and “patriotically” make a tidy profit.

The reason we wore matching T-shirts Tuesday was because my wife and Lana, who lives across the street, decided it would nice to have a Fourth of July bike parade.

My wife and Lana began planning the parade months ago. They contacted the other wives in the neighborhood, made flyers, bought decorations, prepared and arranged food and drinks, decorated the kids’ bikes and got the city council to agree to block off out street.

The husbands in the neighborhood pretty much stayed out of the way of the bike parade planning.

In fact, I stayed so much out of the way my wife and I had the following conversation on the morning of the bike parade.

Wife: When you get home from work you need to put on this cute, matching T-shirt.

Me: Why?

Wife: For the bike parade.

Me: What bike parade?

Wife: Do we have a gun?

After my wife calmed down a bit, she told me the parade started at 7 p.m. which meant I had to be home at 5 p.m. in order to help get things ready so, of course, I rolled in our driveway a little after 6 p.m.

If you’re a non-married male person you may not appreciate how difficult it is to pull into your driveway less than an hour before a major wife-person event like a Fourth of July bike parade, get out of your car and with a straight face, look at your wife and say “What?”.

The good thing was the cold breeze coming at me from my wife felt good in the July heat.

After going inside and changing into my matching T-Shirt I came outside and began help getting the kids lined up for the parade.

Mainly I did this by saying “Hey kid, whatever your name is, go that way.”

The actual parade lineup organizing was done by Bill, Lana’s husband. After we herded the kids on their bikes, tricycles, scooters, wagons, pedal-operated cars and battery-operated SUVs toward the end of the block, Bill got them to line up in some semblance of order and began hollering out instructions.

Bill: OK, first of all, you’re all facing the wrong direction.

After Bill got the kids to turn around, he continued.

Bill: I want all of you to remember one thing. This is a parade. It is not a race. I repeat: THIS IS NOT A RACE.

All of the kids looked up at Bill with their best “I’m paying attention to you. I swear” expressions.

All the while thinking to themselves, “This is a race. This is a race. This is a race.”

Imagine a European soccer riot, only less organized. That’s pretty much how the bike parade began.

But pretty quickly the parade began to take shape with all the kids proudly riding down the street while, several blocks behind, sweaty, out of breath dads, weighed down by video cameras yelled things like “Taylor, slow down,” “Watch out Katie,” “Emily, look at the camera,” “Emma you can go to the bathroom later,” and “Remind me again, what are the symptoms of a heart attack?”

The important thing about the night we parents decided, was that the kids had fun and perhaps learned something about the true spirt of the Fourth of July.

Emma, for example, learned about the true spirit of the Fourth of July by getting into a burping contest with her friends Will and Oliver.

What the heck, it beats a stupid, matching patriotic T-shirt.