A slightly chilly parade that warms a parent's heart

By Jayson Jacoby July 22, 2011 06:58 pm

The weather for the Miners Jubilee parade felt more like Halloween.

So did the bag of candy I was clutching.

I had to maintain a firm grip on the thing just to prevent it from vomiting a glut of cheap paper and empty calories all over the sidewalk.

This single act, besides its potential for saddling me with a citation for non-nutritive littering, would have obliterated the trust I’ve accumulated with my daughter, Olivia, over her four years.

I haven’t seen her quite so excited since she figured out how to “steer” her grandpa’s powerboat.

(You don’t want to water-ski behind that vessel, let me tell you.)

Of course there are few four-year-olds, at least among those I’ve run across, who can maintain any measure of tranquility when people keep tossing candy bars and chewing gum right at their very feet.

Especially when the throwers are accompanied by rodeo princesses on horseback (“cowgirl princesses,” in Olivia-speak), fire trucks and people carrying an immense American flag (a “flag trampoline” in the lexicon of Olivia).

It’s not that she was surprised by the candy.

We had in fact emphasized that aspect of the parade in the days leading to the event. Although our goal wasn’t to awaken Olivia’s sweet-tooth — it’s pretty energetic without any special provocation — but rather to remind her not to run out into traffic to grab a Tootsie Roll.

As it turned out, Olivia didn’t have to cover a lot of ground to collect enough candy to decalcify a great many sets of four-year-old molars.

We picked a block which was nearly devoid of spectators — the east side of Second Street between Washington and Court.

We weren’t aiming to maximize Olivia’s gluttony — as any parent knows, the annoyances related to candy increase exponentially with the number of pieces gathered.

Our purpose, rather, was to make sure Olivia didn’t get shoved aside by more aggressive kids and be left shortchanged in nougat and chocolate and, inevitably, weepy. Although she’s nimble and quick afoot, Olivia tends toward passivity in group settings.

Instead of holding her ground, she’s apt to try to send me into the fray.

And I’m far too savvy to get between a bunch of kids and bite-size chunks of Laffy Taffy.

The only people within 50 feet or so of where we waited for the floats to arrive was a foursome who looked awfully comfortable in their folding chairs.

We, of course, had neglected to bring any.

Which wasn’t altogether an oversight.

Max, who’s Olivia’s four-month-old brother, more or less insists on being held, and he prefers that his holder never sit down.

He’s apt to complain too if his bearer so much as stands still. Max reminds me, in that way if no other, of a great white shark, which must stay constantly in motion or risk drowning.

When the first of the candy-tossers came past and underhanded a few butterscotch disks toward Olivia, she got right into the spirit of the thing.

She handed me the candies, which I stuffed into the pocket of my shorts.

Then the two couples sitting nearby offered Olivia the sweets that had bounced into their zone.

With a word of encouragement from her parents, she slunk over and shyly accepted.

Thus was formed a thriving partnership.

Over the next 45 minutes or so, Olivia and her new friends showed off the kind of coordinated teamwork that a basketball coach strives to instill in his players.

Neither the diminutive jawbreaker nor the carelessly heaved hunk of bubblegum could get by them.

At one point Olivia squirmed beneath the Dumpster parked against the furniture store wall. She emerged after a brief time brandishing one of those square candies that can crack a bicuspid if you don’t let the thing soften in your mouth for, say, half an hour.

Her comrades, meanwhile, exhorted every parade entry — they seemed to be longtime friends with at least 70 percent of the participants — to not be so stingy with the goods because, hey, there’s a little girl over here at the curb.

Initially I feared that my two pockets would quickly become overloaded, leaving me to waddle back to the car, like Kramer in that “Seinfeld” episode when he tried to buy calzones with change.

Fortunately, Lisa has a cunning bag that folds up to the size of a credit card but when unraveled can hold a goodly supply of high fructose corn syrup-infused glop.

As I watched Olivia scamper around, squealing with delight every time a little herd of cellophane-wrapped bits skittered with an audible hiss across the asphalt toward her, I thought how lucky we are to have such an experience.

I don’t mean to suggest that there was anything unique about it.

I suspect that if you watched a parade in any small town in America you could find a similar patch of curb, and meet a similar group of locals who would happily help a little girl.

But when the little girl is your little girl, you surely feel blessed that you share a town, and for a short while a section of sidewalk, with people who get almost as excited in sharing candy with a four-year-old as the four-year-old does in collecting it.

That’ll warm you up no matter the weather.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.