The Albany Parade.

My grandfather only ever knew one bedtime story, and he’d only ever tell it when he was drunk. Having voluntarily excluded himself from my formative years, he tends not to tell it much. There’s guilt in it to be sure. But the story doesn’t start with guilt, it starts with breakfast—at least, it begins with some calm. When the Albany Parade came to town, my father—your great-grandfather—would take us all through New England to find it. It never arrived on a certain day, it was just something you had to know how to find. On the morning of—it was always a Sunday—he would wake me and my sister and we’d have more pancakes than we could chew and more strawberries than you could ever imagine. He would pour each of us a small cup of coffee. Tied high in our boots and bundled-up warm in our coats and blankets, we’d set out on foot right before the dew fell. When it did, we’d hold out our tongues and my father would make funny faces. To get there, we had to hike a big hill up to an apple orchard. We would run through the trees, stealing apples and falling down silly. We would roll down into the dirt, through the creek, and into a forest that lead to the other side of America. When we were completely exhausted and had traveled as far as two kids and an old man can travel, we would see it: A hundred elephants leading a thousand people out through the woods and into the world, across the Mississippi and Colorado rivers, brimming in orange and gold and sapphire, completely exhausted and terribly happy. My father—your great-grandfather—told me that this was the haven on earth that everybody looked for. As we smiled stupidly from our lookout on some round hill, everything was illuminated. Lions and tigers and bears and narwhals with legs and flying antelope and a chorus of fat people singing opera songs that my father loved to hear. I remember seeing everything that I had ever known for the first time. And then I remember feeling very big. I remember feeling tall. When I was nine my grandparents took me to see the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving. Ten years later I would come to reject this holiday as the great feast of consumerism and genocide that it truly is, but at nine I felt much more inclined to marvel at the balloons. Real parades, my grandfather told me, had no balloons. I wondered what this

meant late into the evening, until another verse of the Albany Parade slipped sleepily from my grandfather’s purple lips; his speech slurred when he came to the vowels, still, he kept going. I remember his voice. My father’s greatest talent, he said, was that he could imagine himself in his imagination, and that this kept him young. As we sat for dinner, having rolled backwards down the hill and having stolen all the appropriate apples so that we could afford the toll on our way back to town, my father could be smelt in the next room over, puffing his tobacco pipe and drawing pictures in his journal. My sister and I would eat as fast as we could, and then the three of us would walk as fast as two sleepy kids and a tired old man can walk, out the door and into America—the last ballet dancer and the final marching band played somber Southern songs as we would fall asleep, against my father, under the big avacado tree in our front yard. My grandfather used to tell me, upon hearing in church the metaphor of God as a parade watcher, that real parades could not be watched; they had to be experienced. I wondered what this meant late into the evening, until the sun set set so perfectly that I could look directly into it.

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