I watched as my daughter’s eyes sparkled.
"Here they come, Momma! Here come the cows!"
If you are local or even semi-local, you know exactly where we were last weekend: The 13th annual Strolling of the Heifers. Also known around our house as the cow parade.
We had been looking forward to this event for weeks. It was a guaranteed laugh when we explained that cows walked right past Daddy’s work and all the way up Main Street. She had been every summer since she made her home in my belly but had no memories of the event. We were excited to see it through her eyes, once again.
We arrived in town early and found prime parking. The calm before the cow storm left downtown serene and pleasant. We slowly made our way through the sunshine to grab coffee and snacks. We answered a million excited questions.
"When will the cows get here?"
"Will there be drums?"
"Is someone going to throw me treats?"
"Did I just hear a cow?"
"Is it starting yet?"
"Where are the cows? I only see people!"
We made our way up a rapidly filling Main Street and found a shady spot to wait until the parade commenced. Not surprisingly, 10 minutes before kick-off both the 3-year-old and a certain pregnant momma had to find a restroom.
I knew this weekend was going to be full of adventures.
After a successful potty break we decided to find a viewing spot close to the facilities. Sunshine plus lots of water plus an active baby makes for multiple trips an hour. I was going to be prepared.
We found a small stretch of sidewalk that was unoccupied. Folks were milling about stepping into the street to look down the hill, hopeful for their first cow spotting. We settled in, happy to find a spot were our kiddo could view this much-anticipated spectacle.
It started and the millers fell back, onto the sidewalks. Parents sat alongside their children. A mom and her two young girls ran to see the beginning. They sat directly in front of us, clearly not on purpose. My husband asked them if they wouldn’t mind scooting over. The woman very pleasantly apologized and happily scooted the two feet needed to make everyone’s view better.
We were sharing space with thousands of people in a town meant for hundreds at best. There were bound to be overlaps and requests to move. Every year either we have to ask or someone asks us. It is a delicate balance and dance to shuffle all those bodies into a limited amount of space.
I had noticed a couple taking photos in front of the mom and her four children that sat to my right. I saw as another woman asked them to move. Her request was ignored and they continued to block the view of the kids. As the parade progressed they pushed further into the street, blocking not only the kids next to us but now us as well. My 3-year-old strained to see her beloved cows.
My husband got up and asked them if they wouldn’t mind moving, that they were blocking the kid’s view. I expected some grumbling at most, it was getting hot and I know how territorial people can get. Then I looked at the faces of these children, as they gazed in wonder at the livestock. No one could possibly get grumpy about allowing these faces to see the fun.
Then I heard the yelling. The four-letter word that is usually hailed as the worse of the worse, the one that rhymes with a certain feathered farm animal. I could feel my heart beating in my throat as I yelled for my husband to come sit down. The man he had approached had lost all self-control and was telling my husband to shut up, just with that feathery word inserted into the phrase.
My husband walked away without losing his cool. How he did that, I may never know. The older man was screaming in his face. All because we asked if they could step over a few feet so that the kids behind them could see.
Within minutes his wife was behind me, standing with her feet and knees touching my back. She started ranting about respect and them being there first. She said things like, "Why don’t you just stand and hold your kid," and "Learn some respect!" All within inches of my daughter. It was too much for me.
"Ma’am! How old are you? My daughter is 3. All we wanted was for her to be able to see."
I was met with a snarky reply. She stated that she was 60 and I was being disrespectful. They were there first, after all.
I was astounded by this couple’s behavior. Both my husband and I stayed as respectful as the situation allowed. We were both highly disrespected and bullied, but because they were older, that did not matter. This was a classic case of demanding respect without showing any themselves.
A case of do as I say, not as I do.
The woman did not move, even after I asked her as politely as I could muster to please move away from me. I think she may have actually stepped closer. The only saving grace in the situation was that our daughter and the children next to us could finally see clearly and were so enthralled with the festivities they barely noticed the adults behaving badly.
I, on the other hand, was really upset. My husband had been verbally accosted and a very angry person I did not know was poking me in the back. The stress was too much and I started having small contractions. I knew I had to walk away.
I secured my daughter’s cow balloon to her dress and told my husband I had to use the bathroom. I walked away without even looking at the woman or her husband. By the time I got back the contractions had stopped and they had left.
Right before I sat down the woman beside me, the mother to the four children the older couple had been blocking the entire parade, stopped me and thanked me. They had tried to get them to move and were met with silence.
The parade ended and we gathered our things. Our daughter chattered excitedly about what she had seen and how she wanted to see more cows. We headed up the hill, to the town common, to join the throngs of spectators at the festival that followed.
Halfway there I needed a bathroom. We ducked into the public library and I took my place in line. In front of me was a teenaged couple. The girl turned and smiled at me. "You should go ahead of me. You look like you need it sooner than me."
I thanked the young girl and entered the restroom. As I left, I thanked her again. Her reply was another smile, a glance at my belly and a cheery, "Anytime!"
My faith in good was restored and a few stereotypes were shattered. My daughter got to witness firsthand and that no matter what age you are, sometimes meltdowns happen. Anger gets the best of everyone. She also witnessed a tiny selfless act by a person who would be typecast as less than thoughtful.
Respect, it is a two way street. One that has no regard to age or social standing but instead it has everything to do with actions. Actions and reciprocation.
Michelle writes from the home she shares with her husband, their three year old daughter and two dogs. She is the authority on nothing and may just be the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet. Her daughter is convinced she is a super hero but most days she feels more like the super villain. Read more of her work on her blog at www.JuiceboxConfession.com All love letters can be sent to JuiceboxConfession@gmail.com.