It's choose&cut weekend in the county. Christmas tree growers open the fields to people who come to buy them directly out of the field for a great deal less than at a street corner lot in Charlotte or Raleigh, Winston-Salem or Greensboro. Probably Miami too. What a horrid job that must be to go to a city, say Raleigh, and stay in motels for a week or 2 or 3 while working the tree lot. Great target for getting robbed. When we're dealing in money we spend our lives in shark-filled waters. Everybody is after something that is yours. And today is the Christmas parade. It's like having a Mother's Day Parade on St Patrick's Day, the Christmas parade for Thanksgiving weekend.
It's all about marketing, persuading people to turn loose of some money. The traffic in town is as bad today as I've ever seen it. It was urban traffic, which made the urban people feel at home. My friends Lucas and Judy are here from Georgia. We went into town for the Chinese restaurant, to get our dinner to take home, and to see Joe and Melia Edwards at their tree farm on choose&cut Saturday. The Christmas tree patch looked like a giant parking lot full of expensive and big SUVs, like 4-wheel is the only way you can drive in the mountains.
Melia and Joe were both full-time busy. Got to talk with Joe a few minutes. He was lit up having a great time. This was the big performance day. They had hired people all over the place, directing parking, working in the gift shop, chainsawing the trees, hauling, wrapping. It was a big production for 2.5 days. They were on the ball. Everything flowed smoothly, or so it appeared. This is their once a year reaping the reward of taking care of Christmas trees year round. Driving in to find a parking place, Judy said something about seeing local color here. There were people everywhere. I said the only local color you'll see here is Joe and Melia. This is where you go to see city people.
In town was the same. I'm glad Lucas was driving. I can't stand driving in Sparta when it's playing city. People were getting in place for the parade. We went to the Chinese restaurant and Food Lion, and if we weren't out before the parade started, we'd be in the parking lot until after the parade. Though one time a few years go, on the day of this parade, Jean was at Jr's and decided she wanted a milkshake. This was in her last year. Let's go to Hardee's and get one. Jr, about the time he was starting to need a cane, drove through the parade at the intersection of Grandview. Found an opening between presentations, made it to Hardee's drive-thru, then back across the street in another opening. Neither one of them thought anything of it. Just another trip to town for something.
We made it onto the highway before it shut down for the parade. I had mixed feelings about the parade. A little bit of my support civic consciousness mind was telling me I ought to wait out the parade to be nice, to be acceptable, to see it whether I enjoy it or not, because it's right to support town businesses. That's a losing formula. Ought to doesn't motivate me to anything. It fueled my retreat from Sparta before the parade, the sense of obligation that came from nowhere but in my own head, and for no valid reason. I don't owe anybody an hour of watching a parade. We're a bit too old for parades. Judy, who grew up in Brooklyn, told of her dad taking her to the Macy's parade in NYC when she was 10. She sat on his shoulders.
I remembered seeing American Royal parades in KC every year, something to do with stock yards. I remember almost exclusively the black majorettes out in front of every black high school band tossing the baton straight up in the corridor between tall buildings, making it seem like it was 10 stories high the twirling baton went until it started downward. Occasionally, about half the time, the girl would miss it and it would hit the pavement on the rubber tip and go flying through the air in some unpredictable direction like a football. When the girl caught it on its multi-story descent, the crowd roared. My cousin Deena was a majorette at her high school. She'd shown me much of what she could do, so I had some appreciation with what these girls were doing catching one, as well as throwing it so it comes straight back to her hand, not on some viewer's head.
New parade regulation this year. Can't throw candy to kids at the side of the street. Somebody has to be carrying a box of candy and handing it out along the way. It's easy to see the good sense in that. The only thing about the parade that tugged on me was to see Mildred Torney ride by in a car as parade grand master. I know that's a big ride for her. In a way, it's the town honoring her for simply being who she is. Mildred was the first person I became acquainted with in Sparta, the librarian at the time. Naturally, the library was the first place I went to in Sparta after the gas station. Mildred, like Jr Maxwell, remembered my name the second time I saw her. That endeared her to me all through the years.
In that time, 33 years ago, it was simply custom that you didn't see anybody you didn't already know. If it's somebody from Away, a Flatlander, they're all the more invisible. Invisible as a consciousness. Like in the laundromat, people in there would stare at me like they were watching a television. I'd speak to one and be looked at like I'm a tv with no change of expression even that the person recognized she or he had been spoken to. It was like the television making a racket. I've felt a similar closeness to Mildred over the years as I've felt with Jr, simply because they remembered my name the second time I saw them. That's how rare it was.
Things are different now. I wouldn't have had any problems with recognition if I drove a Cadillac, but I didn't. Cadillacs have high visibility ratings. I learned over the years, though, to think nothing of all the people who saw me without seeing me, because it's culture. I find now after being here half of my life I've become the same way. I tend not to see anybody I don't know. I find I don't connect with the suburban folks from the peripheries of the cities. They're from a foreign culture. I used to live in that culture and it was mine, but it has faded into memory as I have crossed the bridge from there to here over the course of a third of a century. The culture of the country people has become mine. I know now what I looked like then. It makes me laugh within when I think about it, how little I knew, absolutely nothing, about where I was.