|St. Paddy's Day • Holyoke, MA • 1974|
Forty-seven years ago three boys climbed a tree. Today they're what? Late 50s? Forty-seven years ago a pretty red-head led her high-school band up the street beneath that tree. She was probably 17 then and they were maybe eleven? Did she notice them? Is this the only memory of that moment?
Holyoke once boasted the country's longest St. Patrick's Day Parade. March in Western Massachusetts is brisk. St. Paddy's Day sits right in the crack between spring and winter. Temps that day were probably in the high forties with a medium breeze. Now those weren't ancient times. People had color TVs and there were games to watch warmly at home. And there were movies to see and malls to lurk. It wasn't a once-upon-a-time when parades monopolized BIG TIME mass entertainment. Even so, crowds still lined up to watch this majorette prance up Holyoke's main street behind a pick-up-truck float carting the High School's queen and court.
A while ago I found a slide-filled Kodak Carousel. Most were Ektachrome or Agfachrome - films that probably aren't made anymore. I grabbed this shot with my Nikon, a machine that did not focus itself. Uh-huh, I had to do that. And you can see how poorly. Plus I had to set the exposure for what I think was even in bright sun light a lazy-slow-cool-contrasty film. Nailed it, right?
Yeah, I wish this decisive moment was tack sharp, but what memories are? How well can you access mental memory cards? Better than that one up there? Congrats to you. This image was a doorway back to that moment. A bunch of us carted lawn chairs, babies, blankets, and coolers of food and beer to a stretch of cracking sidewalk in a town that was old even then. Yeah, I remember clapping and hooting and dancing and singing and laughing. Then driving to someone's home to keep going into the brisk Western New England night.
Life is fine today. We're happy, my wife and I. We have new, if different friends. Those olden days of parade parties haven't happened in a long time. Like Ektachrome, their saturation's faded inside my head. But... while memories are soft as that image up there, the shapes are warm, and smile making. And for an instant, I can look at those boys, that young woman, and understand something about boys and girls and parades and friends. And realize that the hazy picture's not the only memory of that moment.