One of the most vibrant memories of my youth. More than half a century ago.  I lived in a small town across the river from New York City.  My father took me and my brother to see the parade pass through town.  My father set me up, sitting on a stone wall, while the parade passed by. It was our parade.  I don’t remember anything more in my visual memory, but I recall a pure sense of joy, as a little boy, listening to the off-key notes of the local high school bands.  It was a big thing for me.  I did not have such a great childhood. I was so struck by the last episode of the Wonder Years, ending with the same parade.  It was something I shared, maybe the only thing, with so many others. Waving the little flags on skinny little sticks.  Did I have one. A vague memory of a man in a poorly tailored Uncle Sam suit, walking around, handing them out.

The parade ended but the day went on.  My next memory sitting in the backyard, eating hot dogs from a Hibachi grill.  My dad wouldn’t spring for the full grill.  Our friends from the city came up. It was the only day we could eat as many hot dogs as we wanted.  It was the only day I remember my dad being truly happy.  The bright red watermelon.  We had to eat it outside, because we needed to spit the seeds on the lawn.  That night we went to see the fireworks from a supermarket parking lot.  They cannot be as great as I remember them.  Fireworks in a small town were just not that good years ago.  Yet I remember it as magical.

I had such a profound sense of sadness when I read and then saw new reports of a high powered rifle shooting into a 4th of July parade crowd.  I wonder if I could have even comprehended such a thing back then.  Any of us?  I picture my dad staring back without comprehension, empty eyes.  It would be like saying my aunt was spending the 4th of July on Mars.  I read the news, I saw the pictures, I was so sad.  This changes everything I thought.

I remember back forty years ago the Tylenol scare.  I was in college.  Somebody had put poison in Tylenol bottles and left them on the shelf.  That is why the bottle are so hard to open up now, still. It happened just before Halloween.  I remember thinking Halloween will never be the same.  It didn’t have the pure joy for me the 4th of July did because my father did not like Halloween.  It was incredible to me.  Perhaps people don’t remember.  We don’t have an international children’s day here.  Halloween was that day.  It belonged to children.  Now it belongs to adults, and partying and stuff like that.  But back then it belonged to children.  After the Tylenol scare it was never the same.  It recovered some over the years, but I can’t explain, it never got back to where it was.  It didn’t even happen on Halloween, the Tylenol scare, didn’t have anything to do with it.  But it ended something special.

And now this shooting.  Will young children ever have the sheer joy I felt so many years ago again.  I hate people who remember the good old days.  There was plenty bad.  There was cruelty and exclusion.  But there were some things though that held some of us together. A man disappointed in his miserable life, his sad child.  We had that day.  So much so that one of the most iconic shows in television history used it to take its bow.  I cannot help but think this small but indelible part of so many of our lives is gone.  Like Halloween I question whether we will ever get it back.  Will children ever feel a sense of safety and joy again.  It doesn’t matter how big the fireworks shows get, it was that feeling, that sense at this moment of “this is where I want to be, the world and I are one.  What a gift for young children.  Is it gone forever?

I feel like so much has been lost over the last years.  It just keeps chipping away from us, piece by piece. How long can it go on before we are completely gone?

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