The parades began in June with Lake Shore’s Homecoming celebration. Costumed by Mom’s creativity, my siblings and I strutted our stuff in the homecoming parade as an official entry; so we never had to join the hordes of children at the end of the parade jostling for position, riding streamer-festooned bicycles into each other, crying, and bleeding.
My family once paraded as a three-ring circus, which many deemed appropriate.
Two cousins, dressed as clowns, carried a banner announcing the Bray Family Circus. Carolyn followed as the ringmaster in a black jacket, top hat, and crayoned mustache. She also brandished a whip, more proof of Mom’s cleverness: when the rest of us saw Carolyn armed, we lost our fondness for tomfoolery.
Barbara, adorable in a tutu and a gap-toothed grin, led an ostrich, Bob, by a pink ribbon. Mom had created an ostrich upper body from paper-mache on a wire frame, which covered Bob to mid-thigh. She glued bird feet of orange felt to his shoes and threatened him with no dessert for a week if he made rude noises from inside.
I struggled down the street as a snake charmer with small snakes on each limb and an inner-tube snake twined around my stomach, its head peeking over my shoulder. The playful serpent had pink polka dots and no muscle control.
I employed a variety of sweaty grips to keep my snake anchored, but it slithered here and there, dropped to my ankles, and sent me reeling into Bob the ostrich, who—blind-sided—staggered into his trainer. Barbara managed to retaliate with several disciplinary kicks to her unruly bird’s ankles before Carolyn threatened us with her whip.
After the parade, Dad said it looked like the snake won.
In contrast, The 4th of July parade in Provo offered classy elegance with beauty queens whose smiles never wavered, marching bands whose majorettes never dropped their batons, and floats: dozens of floats with multi-colored tissue paper stuffed into chicken-wire structures to create arches and gazeboes, swans and ponies, rainbows and clouds—all adorned with attractive young women and dimpled children. Glitter hovered.
I never made it onto a float. But I did march with my junior high band through the droppings of the horseback entries. Aunt Lois made a home movie of the parade and captured a band sequence that lasted forever each of the 202 times she showed it. Frowning from my doomed effort to march and play at the same time, I wore a voluminous, purple uniform: size XL, so the pants, gathered and pinned at the waist, would reach my ankles.
I happily returned to my mother’s jurisdiction for Spanish Fork’s 24th of July celebration commemorating the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake valley. One year, my cousin Jimmy and I paraded behind Bob, who carried a sign with the slogan from a Toni Home Permanent advertisement: “Which Twin Has the Toni?” The ad featured twins with gently curling, blonde hair and explained that one twin had an expensive salon treatment while the other had a Toni Home Permanent. But which was which?
Mom dressed Jimmy and me in matching clothing and blonde wigs she made from mops. Our hair hung in ropes, thoroughly straight.
I spent my half of our $2.00 prize on twenty Snickers bars.