On the 4th, feeling good about who we are


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I've made this suggestion in the past, but always after the fact and buried within a column so it may have been missed (or forgotten by the time July 4 rolls around again). This year I thought I'd try advance notice.

The village ought to film our Fourth of July parade?#34;only not in the conventional way. Joe Kreml is village hall's TV guy, and he does a fine job as those who actually tune into cable channel 6 can attest. He's got a knack with the camera?#34;which is why he ought to be sitting on a float, looking through the lens next Tuesday as the 6th Annual July 4th Parade heads up Ridgeland Avenue.

Why in the parade instead of on the sidelines filming the passing floats and marchers? Because, as I've oft-insisted, the best part of the parade is found along the curbs and front lawns and porches of the grand old Victorians on Ridgeland, festooned with flags and bunting, and making all of us feel there is still something good and wholesome and precious at the heart of America in spite of the many troublesome, extraneous, high-profile indicators to the contrary.

A seat on a float?#34;or the back of a pickup or some classic convertible?#34;is the best vantage point in this parade. Crawling up Ridgeland Avenue at 5 mph affords a lovely, lingering view of the houses and the decorations and as wide a cross-section of one's fellow citizens as can be found this side of Farmers' Market (or the fireworks at the high school later in the day).

During the parade, Oak Park, this cosmopolitan, famously progressive, highly opinionated, heavily cultured, marvelously diverse, social lab experiment suddenly turns back into a charming small-town with echoes of a century past filtering through every picket fence, and emanating from every eave and porch post.

The faces are best, covering a wide spectrum of age, race, and familial definition. And that is what Joe Kreml, or someone else from the village, should be filming. The final, edited version could be shown on channel 6, accompanied by American musical masterpieces?#34;Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" or Dvorak's "New World Symphony" or Sousa if we must or Duke Ellington or something swelling and inspiring.

You can't ride in this parade without feeling good about who we are. It's the same feeling I get at Farmers' Market or block parties or passing the Lake Theatre on a Saturday night?#34;only more so. We look happy, well-adjusted, secure. I know that every one of those faces is fighting some battle inside, but on this day, at this one moment, we are universally aglow, and it would do all of us good to see that.

Some people would mug for the camera, of course, but not everyone. Many wouldn't notice, and would be recorded as they are?#34;chatting on porches and in lawn chairs, calling for candy, well-wishers waving. The camera would also preserve the homey structures we live our lives in, the architectural finery of our facades, the overhanging trees that shade and enfold us.

Yes, marchers have their place, but every parade is a hodgepodge of entities, associations, businesses, village services and worthy causes?#34;an unfolding 3-D billboard of the groups that figuratively form our community spine and literally form a spine snaking its way up the avenue.

It has been so forever, it seems. As poet Phyllis McGinley put it in her poem "Decoration Day:"

Solemn, beneath the elmy arches,

Neighbor and next-door neighbor meet.

For half the village forward marches

To the school band's uncertain beat,

And half is lined along the street. ...

I think it would do us all good to see ourselves lined along that street, which is why someone should film this Tuesday's parade and put it on channel 6.

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