Standing outside of the Wendy’s on what I think was 5th Avenue, my sister and I were freezing, absolutely shivering, and hadn’t yet convinced my Dad to go into the Wendy’s and get hot chocolate. I think it was 5th Avenue because I was only about 9 and my first priority wasn’t the names of the streets in downtown Pittsburgh. My Dad kept trying to get us to just hold on a bit longer, just to see the next band, and then we would go get something to warm us up, – but first, it was just one more band.
Sure enough though, more sequined dancers came down the street and we forgot about how cold we were, lost in a Winter Wonderland dream of one day dressing up in a flashy bedazzled leotards and short, swingy skirts, dancing and making merry down what I now know as The Boulevard of the Allies. What could be better than that you ask – well nothing. In fact, with a giant marching band playing live music right behind me, it was all I needed for Christmas. Until my sister started, “Dad, I really, gotta go…”, and then I remembered how cold I was and how much I needed that Hot Chocolate.
Well, Andrea played Oboe, and I started with a French Horn, but thought that the Tuba outfits were much, much cuter, so I got a friend to teach me how to really read bass clef, you know, like read it better than I did on piano, and then I put that Sousaphone over my shoulders and I was the letter A when we spelled out AMBRIDGE. Sadly, my Father would not let me try out for the Bridger Belles, even though I begged and pleaded and cried. So many Fridays at 4:00pm, fish sandwich dinners during Football season at the Aloe house ended in tears because, “ALL I REaLlY WanTed, (sob) DaD, was To be (gasp for air) A BRidGer Belle, and You RuinEd It.”
All of Ridge Road heard, I am quite sure. At 6pm, though, the tears were dry, and I was in my metal folding chair, in that basement bandroom, where Animal from the Muppets was hand drawn on the wall for me to commiserate with, waiting for roll call, with my mouth shut, like everyone else. Dreams of sequins and short swingy skirts set aside for another day.
When I was very little, maybe 5 or 6, the Pep Band, a tiny group, they played for Basketball games, and little tiny events, would go to Kaufmann’s downtown, and play Christmas Carol’s walking up the escalators all the way to Santa’s Village on the top floor. Probably until my teens, I firmly believed that this is where Santa lived – right here in Pittsburgh, PA. My Dad gave me a set of Jingle Bells, and I played them alongside the Pep Band on the way to see Santa. That was my job. At Christmas time, playing the Jingle Bells is a very important job, and of course, I took it very seriously. That I am writing about this memory, I suppose I take it serious still today.
Kaufmann’s is no longer downtown. In fact, I hear that Target is moving in sometime soon – that is nice. It will never be the same, and we cannot realistically expect it to be the same, as change is inevitable as time moves forward. We either allow ourselves to be flexible and adapt to the change, or we get stuck, in the mud. I read today that The Celebrate The Season Parade, the same parade my sister and I froze at so many years ago, is being cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus. While we must make many changes for our health, for the protection of all, I sincerely hope that someone, somewhere, maybe KDKA, will step up and take over the parade and make it a virtual event, even if just for this year.
No, I would never want a parade to be permanently virtual. Never. I sure would be sad though, if there were no sequins and no bands at all. That would not be a Winter Wonderland, and there would be nothing to dream about. Not tonight. Definitely not for tomorrow.