I went to the mall yesterday, to get a jump-start on my Christmas shopping. As I pulled into the driveway to get to my favorite parking structure, I found the cars were being detoured to other parking areas. There was a long line of people standing behind velvet ropes, waiting for something to happen or someone to arrive.
I drove past fire trucks, police cars and a bus, big enough to transport the entire Ducks hockey team. Ah-hah, that must be what it was, they were going to sign autographs. Security guards motioned the cars entering the driveway to park several miles from where I happened to be going, but I wasn’t about to let this get me into a holiday funk, so I smiled, grateful for the unforeseen exercise.
My purse, overstuffed with non-essentials, bounced heavily against my ribs as I power-walked around the corner to the front of the mall. My Rebok Lifestyles skidded to a halt against the sidewalk. I was greeted by a group of long faces. It was the mounted police! Okay, so the horses were the ones with the long faces.
The officers were just sitting there, smiling; all decked out in their uniforms, positioned on gleaming, official, government-issued saddles. I didn’t know they still had mounted police. As I walked past the herd, the hairs on the back of my neck rose. What was I afraid of? They all seemed to have control of their mounts. I passed them as quickly as I could and crossed the street.
As I stood on the corner, the deep roar of Harley-Davidson’s came from behind. I turned to look. Now, I don’t know motorcycles, but these bikes were beauties. There were four of them. They had custom yellow pearl paint, really king of the road looking, with tinsel-decorations and lights around the gas tanks. The riders were wearing Santa hats and waving to the spectators. They were leading the way for a white, 2012, Lexus Luxury Coup convertible. The driver was wearing antler ears and a big red nose. Cute. Who was sitting up high on the back of the car? It was, none other than, Santa Claus!
My heart began to race as he waved to the crowd, with that parade-like hand motion. Something about this was really bothering me. It could have been the fact that Santa was arriving in a Lexus, and being escorted by burly bikers, or it could have been that I can’t remember the last time Santa arrived before December, or in a luxury Lexus for that matter. Why, dammit, why? Times must be good for the North Pole.
Suddenly, in a Mel Brooks, high-anxiety, sort of way, childhood memories began flooding back. It was a parade, and I hate parades. No wait, I fear parades. I’m sure there is a phobic term for it, like Promenadephobia. The irrational fear of cavalcades of oddly clad marchers, clanging cymbals and blowing whistles, followed by horses. Yes, horses.
All my parade fears date back to when I was three years old. The one and only time my parents took us to the Rose Parade. We were positioned well, right at curbside. The morning was crisp and cold; we could see our breath. High school bands began marching by, while playing their brassy toned renditions, and beating on bass drums. I was so excited. Rickety floats made entirely of flowers I couldn’t pronounce passed, playing shaky music while threatening to implode. I couldn’t have been happier.
The morning was warming up, so I asked my mother to hold my coat. I remember I was wearing my little pink chiffon dress with the short puffy sleeves. My socks matched my dress. But, it was the shoes I loved the most. Black, patent leather, and shining like mirrors.
It was meant to be an exhilarating thing for me, but the next parade participant was the one who scarred me for life. His name was, Monty Montana, and he was riding a beautiful pinto horse. My father leaned down to tell me the horse’s name was, Rex. Monty was swinging a lariat around his head. I was hypnotized by the look of intention he had on his face. Suddenly, the rope left his hand. I stood in frozen anticipation as I watched the rope heading my way. It was the knot in the rope that I felt first. It hit me on top of the head, hard, like when those mean kids thump you while you’re standing in line at the movies. The rough, hemp encircled me, and then drew tight around my tender skin. The crowd cheered as I struggled, like a calf in a rodeo event. The more I tried to escape, the worse the rope grated against my skin.
I heard my parents laugh behind me, as Monty rode forward to claim his prize. Why didn’t they try to rescue me? Too bad, that I was too young to realize how fortunate I was to be singled out, mindfully selected to be given a fabulous memory of my first Rose Parade. He dismounted to retrieve his rope. I didn’t care that he was wearing a fringed outfit louder than the screams in my head, or that he was a cowboy actor, or even if he was a champion yodeler. The damage was done.
I have steered clear of parades ever since. I shy away from the color pink as well. Of course, avoiding parades and shades of pink hasn’t really interfered with my life in radical ways. Tragically, I still get that same sick, empty feeling when confronted by a parade, like the one at the mall.
Perhaps one day, I will seek therapy to reverse the parade paranoia. Or, maybe I’ll just give my fear an acquiescent nod and save my money. Either way, I don’t care if it rains on my parade.