The true meaning of Christmas parades must have changed while I wasn't looking and nobody told me. Given that naivete, there was no way I could have been prepared for joining the festivities on my morning walk along the parade route.
Truth be told, I wouldn't have even remembered that the Christmas parade was today except that when I went to open my living room shades, Clay Street was abuzz with cars of people unloading.
In fact, directly out in front of my house was a bus of fatigue-clad military guys, one of whom was directing traffic around the bus. Ah, yes, happy holidays and welcome to the (khaki) parade.
So when I set out for my daily constitutional, I knew it would be with a jingle-bell view. But who wouldn't get a kick out of seeing parade marshals the Harlem Globetrotters coming down Broad Street?
I'm even enough of a traditionalist that I marvel at watching baton twirlers throwing their batons impossibly high in the air and then somehow catching them mid-step.
I can appreciate a good marching band (or ten), admiring their high stepping musicality and snappy uniforms. The giant balloons don't impress quite like the ones I remember from the Macy's parade, but we're no NYC, either (the reindeer with the smooshed-in face was particularly unfortunate).
But when did Christmas become all about fitness? I was flummoxed to see the Navy Seal Personal Training group as part of the parade. Their float featured recruits "riding" bikes and waving their toned arms, as if to say, "Come sweat with us at 4 a.m.!" Um, no thanks.
Since when did the Triathlon Training Team put on the red and green and shoehorn themselves into the parade? And if anyone's answering questions, what's Christmasy about Dominion Chevrolet driving new vehicles with giant "Red Tag Event Sale" stickers in the parade? Is that supposed to be a gift suggestion?
Flagrant sales tactics aside, the funniest part of the health contingent joining the Christmas parade is the concession group that accompanies it.
Between here and the DMV, I could have bought cotton candy (okay, that's probably parade food), chili-dogs, Krispy Kreme donuts by the dozen and even a marked down grilled cheese (was $3, now $2!). No child left behind, though: every tot had a soda in hand.
And speaking of children, it seemed like the parade brought out the worst parenting imaginable. One Dad walking his little person through the crowd of adults slammed the kid into a chair and then yelled at the confused kid for not watching where he was going.
Another parent trying to effectively discipline pointed at St. Nick's approaching float and screamed, "There's Santa, so you'd better watch it, boy!" Some day we will license people to become parents, like we license dog owners.
After reaching the end of the parade route, I turned around and walked back with the end of it. The vendors had formed the final group and were loudly trying to hawk their leftovers to the crowd busy packing up. "Candy apples, cheap!"
A lone man carried a banner aloft: "Life is short. Eternity is not. R U ready?"
I feel sure I am, as long as eternity isn't like an endless Christmas parade of fit Seals and car salesmen.