Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Today's MOZEN 4/9/13

One of the strengths of any community lies within the traditions it endeavors to perpetuate. They often become part of the identity and, if you will, mythology of any particular place. Large cities often stage huge, annual events which they are often associated with and become famous for. For example, New York's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or Chicago dyeing its river green for St. Patrick's Day come to mind as major cities staging big, traditional events for the benefit of their populations. They have become part of each cities' urban mythology and millions of people have enjoyed these traditions for many years. However, it is within the small towns and villages that dot the American landscape that some of the most positive, simple, lasting, and rewarding traditions can be found. Such is the case with my little adopted village of Nyack, NY.

Every Spring, on the first weekend in April, the Village of Nyack, and it's surrounding communities, open the Little League Baseball Season. It is every bit a harbinger of Spring as the arrival of the crocuses, the swallows returning to Capistrano, the blooming of the forsythia, the appearance of a robin, a chorus of spring peeper frogs, or the running of the Shad in the Hudson. The event involves all the children who participated in the previous baseball season and who are committed to the current one, assembling in their perspective uniforms at the parking lot located in the center of town. Hundreds of kids of all sizes, ages, shapes, and colors gather with their teams to prepare to march down Main St. to Broadway and, then, ultimately, to the baseball field located on the banks of the Hudson River for the ceremonial first pitch and game. Parents and coaches who are can make it join the kids in an attempt to get them into some form of organized chaos for The Big Parade. The energy level is extraordinary. Some of these kids made the "Energizer Bunny" look like a tired, old stuffed animal. If we could have only bottled a fraction of the energy that was being radiated by the kids in that parking lot, we would never have to worry about importing foreign fuel again!! Somehow, the coaches, acting like Paris Island Drill Sargents, managed to organize this unruly mob (parents included) into some semblance of order in time for the parade to begin.

Team banners unfurled, led by the Nyack High School Marching Band and gleaming Fire Trucks, the parade stepped off down Main St. (yes, that's right, Main St.) where the streets were lined with adoring crowds. With the band playing and the sirens wailing, the kids and their coaches made their way the three blocks down Main before making the right on Broadway (yes, Broadway) and winding down to Memorial Park (yes, Memorial Park) and the ball field. The sense of pride among the kids was palpable. They smiled. They laughed. They waved. They actually "glowed". All of them were made to feel like winners. However, the greatest honor - to actually ride ON the antique fire truck - was reserved for the League Champions from the previous season. On top of the sparkling pumper, they peered down on the crowd like the conquering heroes in an ancient Roman Triumph!

The whole event lasted but an hour or two. After, the streets returned to normal and the kids resumed everyday activities. I've witnessed this "spectacle" many times in the 30 plus years that I have lived in the area and my feeling never changes; it makes me proud to call myself a Nyackian! I really do find myself swelling with pride. It's kind of embarrassing. Such a simple thing, really. And it happens every year. But, perhaps, that's why I enjoy it so much. It IS simple. It is not unique - many other communities do the same thing. But this is MY community and they make an effort to do the right thing - and that is to cherish their children. You can feel at that moment in time, there is nothing in the world more important than the children of Nyack. The kids feel it, too. This is empowering.

I must admit that I always have the same reaction, no matter how times I have witnessed it; I have to choke back tears. I remember marching in a parade or two like this one when I was a kid growing up and remember just how special I felt doing it. So, there was a sense of nostalgia. However, it was a tradition that did not, as far as I know, continue in my hometown (Fort Lee, NJ). Nyack has never lost their tradition. They make a Herculean effort every year to continue it. THIS is strength of a community. There is so much discord in our lives. It seems that, as a society, we just can't agree on anything. About the only thing we do agree on is that our children or our future. However, how will we empower them to meet theirs? One way is to foster in them a sense of community. We have to make them feel that they are all contributors and that their efforts are appreciated. What better way to do so than to laud them, ALL of them, with a parade down Main St. and Broadway - literally. THIS is the best that America has to offer; color is not important, gender is not important, age is not important. What is important is that they are together. And it is powerful enough to bring a tear to my eye. And I am not ashamed.

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