At the moment, I am a bit frazzled by the Christmas season. I find myself in awe that every year we voluntarily agree to take on all these extra duties. Added to the regular mix of taking care of and educating four children, I am now a full-time shipping and receiving clerk, with a living room full of boxes. I also double as a personal shopper and bookkeeper, managing the purchasing and budgeting for all of our gifts. As if all this isn’t enough, as we put up the tree last weekend to my children’s great delight, I found myself questioning the sanity of this practice. If it wasn’t Christmas, who in their right mind would move the furniture to put a huge tree in the house!
But I promise I am not the grinch of the season. We have been having lots of fun as well and I wanted to briefly share a few of these moments.
We kicked off our Christmas celebrations by attending the Christmas parade in downtown Fredericksburg. This is the first time I have actually made it out to the parade. I was duly warned that since the parade started around 5:00 p.m. it would turn very cold. So, in my infinite wisdom, I brought chairs and a huge blanket with us. We had two additional children coming with us. My husband was out of town on business so this was a solo project.
We had to park quite far away and I shepherded the transit of six children, two portable chairs, four heavy folding chairs and a large blanket over several blocks. This was a frantic process which required numerous stops to rest.
We finally reached a good spot on the parade route and set up camp. There were enormous crowds and the only spot available to place our chairs was adjacent to a bike rack. We jammed two chairs in the bike rack space and three more chairs squeezed so closely behind it is amazing we were able to sit. The bike rack ended up being a strategic crowd control measure. It gave us guaranteed space on one side. We loaned our extra chair to another family. As soon as the parade started, people jammed in to stand right behind our chairs and we were pretty much cemented in for the duration.
About halfway through the parade, the older children said, “We’re cold. Can we go now?” Unfortunately, with our enormous load of children and chairs and the huge crowds, there was no way for us to leave. “Snuggle under the blanket! It will be over soon!” My toddler son, however, was positively thrilled by the parade and was the most enthusiastic observer, waving to all the participants.
My phone battery died before the parade ended so I didn’t get a shot of the finale with Santa on a giant sleigh float. Once the parade ended, however, the next adventure for us began.
After we waited for the crowds to die down a bit, we paused to reconsider our carrying strategy to get all the gear back to the car. Amazingly, one of my children brought a jump rope with them to the parade so we used that to tie the four folding chairs together. I was the designated lifter of said chairs and the one problem with this strategy was that four chairs are super heavy!
We waddled down the street a block at a time, pausing to rest frequently. With the phone out of battery, we had to rely on our memory of where the car was. We got fairly close to the car but were missing the cross street we walked down. We tried asking various strangers if we were headed the right direction. No one seemed to know downtown Fredericksburg at all.
Since it seemed like it could be a while until we found the car, I ditched the chairs at a corner, making note of the cross street to pick them up later. I picked up the toddler to improve our traveling pace.
Finally, a mom with a stroller pointed us in a direction and we headed that way. Unfortunately, this took us in a completely wrong direction and we ended up somewhere near the University of Mary Washington. We ran into numerous college students and asked them for directions but they were worse than the parade strangers having almost no idea of even well-known attractions in the city. If it was anything outside of a one block radius of the campus, they had no idea.
Eventually, we wandered down a street and found the Sugar Shack Donuts. We all remembered driving past this on the way in. We tried to ask some police officers at the donut shop to point us the right direction but they were busy questioning or arresting some college students so we decided to try to remember our way back to the car.
Fortunately, my landmark memory kicked in and we got on the right track. As we got within 3 blocks of the car, the mom who had pointed me in the wrong direction came driving up, “I’m so sorry!” she cried. She offered to give us a ride the remaining 3 blocks to our car but we just thanked her and hoofed it.
It was funny to see the children, who were complaining about being cold and so tired they were going to fall down, start RUNNING to the car once they saw it. They were so thrilled. We all felt the rush of evading danger, as though we were survivors of some life-threatening emergency.
We all loaded into the warmth of the car and plugged in the cell phone to charge and navigate back to the chairs. They were still there waiting for us.
After all this exercise, the children heartily devoured two large pizzas and a grand time was had by all.
I’m not sure I will attempt this parade again but it was fun to do once. If you ever go to a night parade in December, a few organizing tips:
1) bring chairs (but not folding chairs)
2) bring a blanket for the wind chill
3) drop your stuff at a convenient safe place close to your parade spot and pick it up on the way
4) charge your cell phone fully beforehand!