Kristy Woodson Harvey: Best seat in town for parade watching

Published 12:45 am Wednesday, November 26, 2014

By Kristy Woodson Harvey

Special to the Salisbury Post

The radio can play the Christmas songs and the stores can have their snowy displays and every downtown from here to Texas can be filled with twinkling lights and red bows. But, to me, it isn’t Christmas until Salisbury’s parade says so. Every year, as far back as I can remember, that day was the day that my aunts packed up my cousins, drove to Salisbury, and met my mom, my grandmother and me at Security Bank in my granddaddy, Joe Rutledge’s, office. The view from his window was prime, Grade A, parade-watching space. While viewers below fought over front-row sidewalk acreage for their lawn chairs, we’d jockey for the best position in those wide windowsills, perfectly suited for sitting children, and watch in awe as the bands marched and the floats floated and the Shriner’s cars whizzed by. It was a day of fun and family and celebration that marked the beginning of what really must be the most wonderful time of the year.

I guess I thought that when Grandaddy retired and that office became someone else’s, the days of sitting in that windowsill and watching the floats go by would be gone too.

But life has a way of coming full circle, something I think I am reminded of so much more poignantly now that I have a child of my own. Every time I climb those same stairs that I climbed all those years ago, I feel like a little girl again. I have to remind myself that times have changed. Then, I would be climbing breathlessly to see my granddaddy and sit on his perfectly pressed lap behind a desk that seemed, to my child self, so large it couldn’t be real.

Now, I chase my three-year-old son, Will, up those same stairs as he says, “Come on, Mommy! Let’s go see Howdy!”

Howdy is my son’s nickname for my father. Because we aren’t going to go see my grandfather. We’re going to see Will’s. Security Bank is now City Hall. And what was once the CEO’s office is now the Mayor’s. My son is going to see my dad in what was once my grandfather’s office.

The layout is a little different and the people sitting behind the desks have changed. But those windowsills? The windowsills are very much the same.

I’ll admit, I have to sit a little more sideways than I once did, but, despite my being all grown up, I’d still contend that that office is one of the best parade-watching spots in town. My son, a bit spunkier than I was, insists on standing, pressing his little face to the window, on vigilant lookout for his grandfather riding by, the lure of the parade increased by seeing one of his favorite people in it.

The first time he watched the parade from this very spot, he was thirteen months old, and, even then, he could make out his grandfather in a very long and impressive parade line-up. Now, at three, once he sees “Howdy,” he’ll run down the stairs, jump in the car and ride a little way with him, putting to good use the parade wave that he’s been practicing for weeks.

But me? I’ll stay behind for a while, reminiscing mostly, remembering those days when that office, filled with a dozen of my family members, felt so special, marveling that, though, in some ways I’ve strayed far away from this particular spot, in other ways nothing much has changed. I’ll listen to the music and taste the peppermint in the bowl on Dad’s desk, same as it was when Grandaddy was there, savoring the freezing air that finally meets my cheeks when I venture out of the comfort of that windowsill and onto the crowded street below. The songs will play and the stores will be snowy, the lights will twinkle and everyone will feel full of good cheer. And why shouldn’t they? It’s Salisbury’s Christmas parade. The holidays have officially arrived.

Kristy Woodson Harvey grew up in Salisbury and lives in Kinston.