So, as promised, here’s the bit where I tell you about why I spent the later afternoon/early evening riding around Lake Orion with my brother in a truck full of clowns.
Because it’s Christmas, silly!
Yes, Saturday was the annual Lake Orion Christmas Parade of Lights, or some similar name to that effect. The locals all get together after dark and drive through town with some rather impressively made (for the most part) floats that have tons of Christmas lights on them to celebrate the upcoming holiday and potentially catch pneumonia and die. Those folks not creative enough to come up with their own floats were required to watch the parade from the side of the street and scream out whatever puns their frostbitten minds could come up with by armed policemen wearing jolly Santa hats. As you well know, you can’t have a good parade without a gaggle of clowns and that’s where my mother comes in.
Mom has always been a big fan of clowns and she has the countless collectibles given to her by desperate family members who couldn’t come up with something better for Christmas/Birthdays/Mother’s Day (myself included on more than one occasion) and didn’t want to risk her wrath by buying her an iron or yet another set of Sea Monkeys*. Some time a few years before she retired from Michigan Bell (now SBC Ameritech) she came to work for a woman who was a member of the Michigan Bell clown troupe and allowed herself to be talked into taking up the art of clowning herself. As I recall my mother even hired her boss to be a clown at my 20th birthday party on the logic that she had never had a clown at one of my parties and it’s always better late than not at all.
Anyway, Mom has been doing the clown thing for years and has managed to engage various members of her family and friends into the practice as well. Before I started maintaining my own face full of whiskers I even donned the makeup a few times for various causes. For many years she was available for hire for birthday parties and the like in case some other mother wanted to have a clown at their son’s 20th birthday party. In years past Mom has done countless parades including the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade on more than one occasion. These past few years, though, age has started to catch up with her and walking an entire parade route, even for the smaller scale parades like the Lake Orion and Oxford holiday parades, has gotten to be more than she can handle. This has pretty much ended her participation in most parades at this point, though not entirely. The Lake Orion Christmas parade is different mainly because it happens after dark and all the floats are designed to be lit by Christmas lights. Floats mean you can ride through the parade instead of walking it, much easier on the legs, but you need some sort of float to begin with. My family, particularly my brother, are definitely a creative bunch of people and it’s amazing what you can do with some spare two-by-fours, scraps of plywood, a bit of paint, a few strings of Christmas lights and my Mother’s over-sized pickup truck. Rig up a boombox with Christmas Calliope music on it and all you need now are a bunch of clowns willing to freeze their rubber noses off for the Holidays.
Grandchildren are a natural target for any senior who needs accomplices for whatever undertaking they are planning and my Mother is no different. My daughter Courtney and my niece and nephew have been participating in the different Christmas parades for several years now and all three were present and accounted for this year. Next my mother homed in on my wife and my sister-in-law and it didn’t take too much to prod them into sitting down for some makeup. One of my brother’s neighbor’s kids wandered into the house and was immediately set upon for inclusion in the Truck O’ Clowns. Then a couple of my brother’s friends showed up at the door as they had volunteered to become clowns for the evening for reasons not immediately clear to me, probably short-term insanity. Dad usually drives the truck, but he’s having trouble with his eyesight once again so driving duties fell to my brother. I rode shotgun and made sure the audio cassette got flipped whenever it came to an end so that no one missed out on the unique auditory experience that is Christmas music played on a calliope. Neither of us had to wear makeup and we had the advantage of the truck’s cab being heated so we were free to make our usual witty observations of whatever we happened upon without fear of incurring the glares such comments normally elicit. Not that glares have ever stopped us in the past.
Ultimately, everyone had a good time and the folks being forced to watch us by Lake Orion’s finest all seemed to genuinely enjoy seeing a truck full of clowns roll by. I do have more pictures of some of the other floats (some of which actually came out half-way decent) which I can post if anyone is interested, otherwise you’ll have to make do with the pics of the clown truck I’ve provided here. All in all, a good way to get into the Christmas spirit.
* This is a whole other story in and of itself. I might tell you guys about it sometime.
Oh, and with this post I have now hit 500 entries!