For the first 20 years of my life, I held the opinion that my family was normal...annoying...but normal. It wasn't until I got out in the world and shared stories about my childhood that I discovered that we could classify as, at the very least, unconventional.
My parents both had regular nine to five jobs during the week. But on weekends, they would travel with their Dance Band from Moose Lodges to Elk's Lodges to various Country Club dances throughout northern Indiana. I honestly believed that every kid had parents who got dressed in evening gowns and tuxedos each Friday night and went out to sing and dance with the masses.
I thought lots of families lived with four dogs, five cats, three horses and one house goat that lounged on the sofa while watching Jeopardy. I ask you, what is unconventional about that?
Our home was the place where all the neighborhood kids wanted to come and play due to the fact that we continuously sought out new and different ways of keeping life entertaining and a bit mischievous. Not only did my parents encourage us, they were often times the main instigators.
One such time of mischievous entertainment occurred in the summer of 1976, our nation's bicentennial. We kept a sailboat on Lake Wawasee at the Southeast Bay Marina, and there was an announcement posted in the lady's room of the marina announcing the Annual Wawasee Flotilla celebrating the Fourth of July. When we discovered anybody could decorate a boat and join in the floating parade, there was no question we would enter.
Now I need to familiarize you with a nautical term. The toilet on a boat or ship is referred to as “The Head.” This is important for you to know because that was the theme of our parade entry. We had recently re-modeled a bathroom in our 100 year old home and had not managed to haul the aged toilet to it's final resting place. So we decided it could serve quite well as the throne upon which The Queen of our float would perch. Our entry was titled, “A Head of Our Time,” and I was thrilled to have been chosen the family Queen.
The antique toilet was placed on the bow (a.k.a., the pointy end) of our sailboat. It was lashed securely to the deck with all manner of clamps and bungee cords. We then proceeded to hang brightly colored patriotic pennants and flags from the top of the mast to the water line of the boat.
As luck would have it, several months before even learning about the Floatilla, I had attended a fundraiser for the Concord High School Band where I purchased three old band uniforms, complete with spats and hats with fancy plumage. I also bought 2 of their very old and very dingy orchestra gowns, which were made of heavy, satin-like curtain material. They looked and smelled tortured, but I couldn't pass them up...especially at the bargain price of two for a dollar.
The day of the Flotilla, our crew of eight donned our parade garb, gathered at the boat and received our sailing orders. My 4-year-old nephew wore a CHS band coat and was given a rusty old trumpet to toot during the festivities. My sister, brother, their spouses and my parents all wore other parts of the uniforms.
I looked positively regal in my off-off-white, sculpted satin gown with a crown made out of toilet paper rolls as I took my seat on the throne. I had filled the bowl of the toilet with water balloons and an old fashioned seltzer bottle.
We left the pier and joined 100 other decorated boats as we navigated the 29 miles of shoreline of Lake Wawasee. You have not lived until you've worn a heavy, floor-length gown while sitting on an antique toilet for five hours in the July sun. I had ring-around-the-butt for two weeks following that adventure.
A fine adventure it was. We did not realize that the Flotilla committee presented awards for the best entries. “A Head Of Our Time” won first place that year. We didn't enter for the prizes, but the trophy was given a place of honor in our boat. We entered because it was something new and different, which had great potential for fun and mischief.
As we celebrate the birth of our nation this weekend, let us be mindful of what a blessing it is to live in this magnificent country, where we have life, liberty and are encouraged to pursue our happiness.
Remember, never pass up the chance to join a parade. And if you can't find a parade, start one!
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