Our first Christmas parade in Morgan hill was memorable, to say the least. We arrived early and sat down to a very cheap, but nice dinner at an Italian deli. Then walked to the center divide that cuts the main drag in half through the downtown section of Morgan Hill. From there, we got an all-too-clear view of the gloriously fantastic seventeen and a half minute extravaganza that is the Holiday Parade.
The first third was predominantly civil service vehicles, fire trucks and an ambulance with lights and sirens blaring. Next came a small dance group with tastefully high-necked, fur-trimmed, Santa dresses, doing a series of drill team type moves to “Let It Snow”. Then came a series of brownie and cub scout troops, off-key middle and high school bands. These were followed by another dance troupe that appeared to be from the opposite end of town and spectrum from the first one, as their costumes were shorter, tighter, and of a black and gold lame variety.
But the real corker for me, the thing that cinched this parade for a place in the top five of all time cheesy small town parades, were the last four entrants. First came the requisite nativity scene, with the slight variant that Mary, Joe, and baby Jesus rode on the back deck of a convertible Chevy Chevelle, circa 1973. Sandwiched between the free-wheeling Saviour and another convertible carrying a mousy brown-haired girl in a red sweater with a sash that said “Miss Mushroom”, was a band of Merry lesbians in a roller derby group. They skated in circles and twirled to holiday music in their helmets and knee pads and faux zebra skin, daisy dukes over fishnet stockings. Nothing screams Merry Christmas quite so loudly as that. It was at this point that Sam asked, quite loudly, “Where’s the fake Santa?”. We had come to the epiphany last holiday season that every Tom, Dick, and Santa that appeared in December could not possibly be the real one. After all, some of them had graying, dirty beards and smelled faintly of Cutty Sark. So I had explained as diplomatically as possible that Santa entrusts these roles to contract workers, but only if they truly believe and have the spirit of Christmas in their hearts do they qualify for the job. I told Sam to be patient and keep his voice low ( as some younger kids did not know this “independent contractor” clause, so to speak. Then finally, when my senses felt they could bear no more, the finale arrived. Santa sat, like Papa Hemingway, high up on the center of a float that was shaped like a large crabbing boat. It glowed with blue and green lights that twinkled mischievously in the balmy, seventy degree night air.
I was speechless. I could not understand the connection of a glowing red and blue boat with anything related to the North Pole or Morgan Hill (which has about as much right to call it self a sea-side town as, oh, let’s say Torrance might. My children, having not had 45 years of Santa Clause stereo-typing (as in, Sleigh-yes, Fire Engine-sure, why not….but a red and blue neon tuna boat–no, no way…now you’ve just gone too far.), were completely unfazed by this aberration to the standard Christmas parade finale. It took me awhile to register that it had come to an end? I have to say, the fat man in the red suit was a little anticlimactic after the schmaltz of Miss Mushroom and the pure wanton electricity of the derby girls.
The best part was when I asked a local mom at school the next day about the origins of the mysterious, blue, Santa cruiser. Her reply describes most of what this country, particularly its traditions and politics, has been founded upon. She said, “I don’t know where that came from…it is just the way they have always done it. Hmmm. Well Merry Christmas and a happy fishing season to you all.