"I see her! I see her!" my 4-year-old niece cried enthusiastically. "Right there! That's her!"
We were standing in front of the library, watching the 15th annual Strolling of the Heifers' parade. Parades of any sort are big deals to preschoolers. Parades with cows in them are particularly exciting. But parades with her 11-year-old cousin marching with a band? Clearly, those are the best sort.
The morning had started out a bit rough. The saxophone the first-time band marcher needed? Left at school, in the rush to set up a book fair and arrive to lacrosse practice on time. The "dress-like-a-chicken" idea that saxophone players had been encouraged to try? It seemed far too much work in the end, and she had just pulled on her official band T-shirt and black pants instead.
We arrived at the official meeting point, Green Street School. Miraculously, the band teacher had a loaner saxophone, which our daughter thought worked much better than her brother's. Problem solved, we wished her well and headed out.
As we wandered through local store fronts and waited for the parade to start, the four-year-old kept an eagle eye out on Main Street. "When is it going to start?" she asked. "Where is my cousin?"
We made our way up to the library, and perused the used book sale. She found a comfortable chair, where a wonderful lady was already reading to a couple of other children. The wisdom of "Moo, Click, Clack!" entertained her — until the end of the book. "When is the parade going to start?" she demanded. "Isn't it starting now?"
Just then, we could hear the beginning strains of the American Legion band, the first official musical group to stroll. "Where is she?" she wondered, looking through the adults for her cousin. "I don't see her!"
We explained that there are several bands. "Oh," she said, not sure if she should be happy about more bands and more music, or upset that she would not see her cousin as quickly. We settled onto a stone wall, my niece snuggling in on her mother's lap, making sure she could see everything. Just then, the heifers started to come up the street. "There are the cows!" she noted with satisfaction. "But where's my cousin? Where is her band?"
Soon it was too much for her to sit still and watch from too far away. She scurried off to the side, joining other onlookers right alongside the parade route. I followed her–just as the elementary school band came into view. She started jumping up and down.
"Aunt Jill! I see her! I see her! She's RIGHT THERE!" I looked, but I couldn't find her. My niece urged me on. "She's the one with the glasses!" my niece insisted. I knew that my daughter did not have any sunglasses with her this morning, but I kept looking where she pointed. "There! Do you ...
"Oh," she said, immediately subdued for a moment. "That's not her."
Undeterred, she resumed her mission, peering carefully. Then, I found her, and pointed her out.
"Yes! That's her, Aunt Jill! We found her!"
She stepped forward a bit more. "Hi!" she yelled towards the band. "Hi!" she waved her little hands in their direction, as they marched on, oblivious to her enthusiastic greeting.
"I like their music! Look, Aunt Jill, they are marching by!"
The band passed us, and we rejoined her mother in the shade. My niece's attention turned to the rest of the parade, but she was already wondering about her cousin, too. "Where will we find her?" she wanted to know. "Does she know where to meet us?"
We headed up to the top of the hill, to our pre-arranged meeting point. While we waited, we watched the rest of the entries. The tractors inched by. The Coop grocery carts completed their loopy antics. The middle school band passed first, then the high schoolers. All the time, my niece kept looking.
Finally, our patience was rewarded: the first-time parade marcher had crested the hill. She immediately took the saxophone off of her neck, and handed it over to me, complaining that it was far too heavy for her to carry even one second longer.
The 4-year-old greeted her cousin like a conquering hero. "I saw you!" she told her. "You were in the band!"
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools, at the high school and elementary school levels. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.