We now return to our main story:
We were up Tuesday morning at 5:00 a.m. and out the door shortly with my sister Heidi and family, and my parents. We made 20 minute drive to Provo and quickly found parking. There was excitement in the air as we walked to the nearby field. Finding a spot quickly we through out our blankets and chairs and started on our picnic breakfast. Patriotic music blared from the nearby speakers as the kids slurped down their yogurt and watched as people began to roll out the balloons.
(More pictures posted on Flickr)
The first balloon up was called the “Stars and Stripes” in fitting red, white, and blue. The lead balloon. Just when all the balloons were ready to begin to fill the lead balloon fired up and rose slowly into the air, flying the flag. The National Anthem blasted in full regality across the field as the masses rose, hats whipped from heads, and hands placed over hearts. At the close of the anthem we all recited the “Pledge of Allegiance” as one massive body. I have never heard it recited by such a large number in unison before, and it was truly amazing. The words seem to echo off the surrounding mountains as the sun began to peep over the peaks, splaying it’s first rays across the field.
At the conclusion all the balloons slowly began to fill. The crowds were invited to walk among the balloons. It was like walking among a forest, an inflatable one with myriads of brilliant colors.
Elizabeth squealed at the sound of the firing balloons and shrank from the heat with her hands clamped over her ears. (She’s very sensitive to sound. It took us ages just to get her not to be afraid to flush a public toilet, and she still plugs her ears most of the time she does.) I have never had the opportunity to be so close to the balloons and to see them inflate beside me, feel the heat of the fire.
As two of the balloons inflated their sides touched forming a tunnel that we, and thousands of others, walked through. I felt like Alice going through the tunnel into a whole new world, bright and brilliant, surrounded by such color and sensations I had never before witnessed.
Balloons were beginning to rise and sail directly over our heads, I felt like they could just skim across my scalp feather soft.
The crowds were intense and I gathered children close as lost children were announced, and I counted heads time and time again. Finally we were asked to exit the field and to stay behind the painted perimeter. We began to exit the field and as I turned I realized I did not have Elizabeth. My heart pounded, my feet froze and I grabbed my sister. “Where’s Lizard?!” We looked frantically around and spotted her a few feet ahead obediently heading off the field toward the rest of our family. I breathed a sigh of relief, caught her arm and ordered her to stay by our sides.
From the sidelines we watched all the balloons sail into the sky, growing smaller on the horizon. Sometime later it was time to head over to the parade route. This is supposed to be THE 4th of July parade of the Utah Valley. My niece was marching in it as part of the Bagpipe band (don’t shoot me if it is called something other than band, heh) of Payson. I was excited to attend a ‘real’ parade on the 4th of July. Here in the Portland area there isn’t much in the way of a parade to celebrate the holiday. Portland has the big Rose Festival parade in June, which is amazing, all the floats made out of flowers, seeds, and plants. Our town has an Old Fashion Days parade at the end of July. Hillsboro has a very small parade on the 4th, but not much. I don’t know about Salem though. Anyway, I was excited; a parade to celebrate with just seems right, and exciting.
I wasn’t disappointed. Even with the hot sun boring into my back, it’s scorching heat driving through my shirt into my sunburn, it was amazing. Band after band (bands are the best, heh), floats, and giant balloons. I have never been to a parade with the giant balloons before, and what fun it was!
The kids loved it too and cheers arose as Sarah marched by puffing away on her pipes.
On our way home Paul and I took time to drive past the Provo Temple (at our children’s request). It was fun to see how the Missionary Training Center has changed, and the children, as well as us, were enthralled with the sight of the temple. As we drove back to my sister’s home we passed by the Brigham Young University Campus and I pointed out the kids my usual parking spot and route I walked to school. We found our little apartment that we lived in as newly weds and awaited the birth of Elizabeth, and scowled at the evil red poles in the parking lot (a story for another time). It was fun to drive the kids down memory lane.
The rest of the day was spent resting, playing and listening to old time and patriotic music. Paul has learned a new instrument, the spoons, and we had fun putting on an old time concert with his spoons and my piano. We ended the day with a cookout of hotdogs over a fire and s’mores, and fireworks popping and blazing in the streets.
I was so grateful for such a marvelous holiday, for family and the incredible freedoms that we enjoy. Wednesday however was looming ahead, along with the fear of assassination . . .