Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lights

For as long as we have lived in Colorado, this time of year has always meant one thing. The Parade of Lights. The city puts on several parades a year, but the biggest one of them all is the Parade of Lights. And for every year that we have been here, we've been in it.

The preschool always had a float in the parade. Every year that we have been here, we've had a preschooler. And every year that we have been here, someone in our family has been on that float. It's been a partnership between the preschool and Miller farm, a local family run farm, that lets us use one of their huge trailers for the event. Every year, the preschool teachers would swear they were never going to do it again, and every year we parents would manage to talk them into it.

Every year, I've been involved a little more in the planning of the float. The first year, we didn't make it to the actual float decorating day because Aidan decided to play hide and seek that morning. We spent hours looking for him, not hours doing what we were supposed to be doing. He had made his bed, with him in it and managed to lay there completely still for hours.

The next few years after that, I helped plan, but had sick kids when the time came to actually do the decorating. One year, it was snowing so hard that most of the floats didn't bother to show up. It was freezing, but our float was full of kids. Tom rode on the float that year, but I didn't get to see the parade because the snow was too deep for me to get over there in time. There was the time that half the lights on one side went out right before the parade started. And then the time that the generator for the lights ran out of gas and a dad got sent to the gas station in a hurry so we could make it into the lineup. We've had fun.

And then there was last year. The parents met for the meeting to come up with the theme before Thanksgiving. We decided on the Stars of Alpine Preschool, and designed the most elaborate decorations yet. And then over the break, something terrible happened. The daughter of one of the teachers was in a horrible car accident, ending up in the ICU with a shattered pelvis. We quickly switched from float decoration to food delivery and hand holding.

At some point, a handful of parents decided that we were going to figure out a way to make it work. We knew how important that float was to so many people. No matter what, we'd get that float ready. It wasn't easy. And not without blood, sweat and tears. A lot of tears.

I enlisted the help of my father in law, and he really made it come together. He cut out all the wood stars and other prop pieces we needed, and I spent an afternoon painting them all. The stars went to school and were covered with the hand prints of all the children, helped by a pair of mom volunteers. Another mom who had children in the preschool before, who had ridden on that float in the past, offered to help me do some of the detail work on the signs. Even though her preschool float days were over, she helped. Anyone who has been through the doors of that preschool knows how much it meant.

The initial plan was to have all the lights purchased, but that had been put on a back burner obviously. Instead, parents brought tools and extension cords and every spare light they could find from home.

It took a lot of people putting in a lot of work. When the teacher with the injured daughter arrived at the farm that morning, seeing her face made it all worth it though. Her daughter was fighting to recover, and her progress had been nothing short of miraculous. And though it might seem like something that shouldn't be too important, I think that float really meant a lot to her. Though the teachers always said every year's float would be the last, they were always joking. Until last year. Had we known that it really would be the last float, it would have been even more bittersweet.

The school has changed so many policies in the last year it's ridiculous. And they have prevented the preschool from participating in just about everything. The farm field trip. The parade. The things that our preschool was known for in the community. And what had become an annual tradition for the families of our kids is gone.

Tonight, we'll be at the parade. But it will be different. We'll be sitting on the side of the street, watching the other floats pass by. Wondering why the adults feel so compelled to take something so amazing away from children. On the other hand, it will be the first time I am really able to watch the parade. To sit and see the looks on the faces of my children when Santa arrives at the end .

It will be different this year. But we'll be there. We always have been and we always will be.

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