The suspense is over folks! The Oscar goes to Life With The Top Down for her stellar performance as a balloon handler in Philadelphia’s 93rd annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Insert a standing ovation and roars of applause while the camera pans over to my I won I won I won face.
It was all I imagined it would be and so much more. I would like to thank my dear friend Susanne for her consistent pleas on Facebook for volunteers to represent the SPCA. And also for signing me up before I even said yes! If it weren’t for your ability to beg, plead and forge my name, I would not be beaming from ear to ear today. 2012 is the best Thanksgiving on record.
I would also like to give a HUGE shout out to my daughter for joining me in the shenanigans of the day. Not to mention getting up early, taking pictures and limiting her eye rolling. But, most of all for being by my side as I fulfilled this dream.
Living your dream is not an easy task to tackle. It doesn’t matter if you’re climbing mountains or carrying a 40 foot latex Lorax through the streets of Philadelphia, there will be obstacles and lessons along the journey. Some good, some bad and some……
The day started with getting UP at 2:00a.m., out into the bitter cold by 3:00, dressed in an orange jumpsuit with gold “hair” looking as if I escaped from Disco prison and inflating balloons in the street … all by 3:45 a.m. For the Love of God I never in my life thought that sentence would come from me!
Honestly, there is nothing more disturbing than approaching an alleyway blanketed with deflated cartoon characters. It looked like a crime scene for christ’s sake! Once the shock wore off we were put to work.
The night before the big show it was brought to my attention that I would also be part of the “Inflation Team” just something else to beef up the resume. Actually volunteering for this team landed the SPCA a nice donation by the parade coordinators. Life is good! The pleasure was all mine as I assisted in the resuscitation of Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Hungry Caterpillar and of course The Lorax.
I met so many amazing people on this journey. The SPCA volunteers were a genuinely compassionate group of people who were a pleasure to have in my company. Living the dream surrounded by good people was a perk.
We were interviewed by WPVI 6ABC, where I graciously answered the question “Is there anyone here who always wanted to do this? with a very enthusiastic “YES! me…it has always been my dream!” Nothing confirms crazy like silence from a News Reporter.
Next up was Sam Champion from Good Morning America. This time I stayed back while Susanne & Emily took center stage with Sam. He was so nice, genuine and very easy on the eyes in person. It was very exciting!
While they were out hobnobbing with celebrities, I chose to spend some quality time with an Auguste a/k/a a Clown. I’ll admit I was a little jealous that they were on National TV. Hey, this is my dream right? So, what does one do when she’s green with envy? She roams the street looking for her own celebrity, in this case the Christmas Clown. If you’re gonna live it, you gotta do it all….including Christmas Clowns. I’ll admit our relationship was brief. We didn’t exchange names or numbers, but with both walked away with a little extra spring in our step.
While spending some time in our trailer, sipping on an endless supply of hot coffee & cocoa, by trailer I mean Septa bus with hot beverages supplied by the Red Cross, I had the pleasure of meeting “Simon.” This young man was with the wonderful crew of hardworking men who provide these latex beauties for parades all across the country.
He came in with a big “Hello, how’s everyone doing today” “Are you all having a good time?” No one was spared hearing about my dream, including Simon. I told him my tale of living the dream, when he opened up to me about his dream of wanting to try out for Xfactor, he was a singer. I said “show me what you got…sing me a song.” After some intense begging, he took my challenge.
This brave young man began to snap his fingers, tap his foot and provide us all with an AMAZING version of Lady In My Life by Michael Jackson. It was indeed a memorable moment that will not be forgotten anytime soon. Not many people can take on an icon like MJ, but this 18-year-old did and he nailed it! The rest of his story is for another post. That’s all I can say is, I’m much whiter than I thought.
FINALLY around 7:30 we headed out onto the street to get the Lorax ready for his debut. We didn’t actually get into the parade line until around 9:00, which meant standing in the cold for over an hour while we held the balloon. At this point one of the other handlers offered me a swig of vodka from her flask. Seriously? I told her ” I can’t drink, I’m operating heavy equipment.” forgetting she also had a damn rope! Just imagine getting a DUI for walking a Lorax while intoxicated…come on.
Once we began our journey down JFK Blvd., greeted by thousands of people screaming Happy Thanksgiving and chanting Spin It! Spin It! Spin It! I was beaming like a glowworm.
We willfully met the demands of the crowd by running in circles with the balloon.They roared with enthusiasm as we scored a perfect 10 for our performance. Meanwhile with every “Spin it” I peed a little…mind you, this went on for hours. NOTE TO SELF: Wear A Diaper.
As we approached the Grand Stand our Captain informed us we will be on TV, so this was our moment to shine just a little brighter. This is when it occurred to me that I lost my Disco hair 4 “Spin Its” back and I was walking in soaking wet pee pants! It’s not exactly what I imagined, but the dream must go on.
I put on my camera face, gripped my rope a little tighter and handled that latex Lorax like a boss!
Live your dreams and Enjoy The Ride!
I’ve heard them all before. My mind screams with thoughts about following my dreams and accomplishing my goals. I hear inspirational stories all of the time that get my blood pumping and compel me to do whatever it is that I always wanted to do. Yet, once that flock of enthusiastic goose bumps fades, I don’t move a muscle.
I’ve watched as the Susan Boyles of the world made it happen. I sat in awe of the double amputee performing in the Olympic games. I listened to the 95-year-old college graduate state “it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.” I remain paralyzed.
My heart swells with emotion over the accomplishments of complete strangers; meanwhile doubts, fear and uncertainty are being pumped into my head preventing me from fulfilling my own. Ah, there really is nothing like curling up with a cozy set of fear & self-doubt.
What’s holding me back? What am I waiting for? What will everyone think? Am I good enough?
Then it happened. An offer I couldn’t refuse. Fate had entered the building and I was presented with an opportunity to pursue one of my long time dreams. Drum roll please…
I am officially a Balloon Handler or as I prefer, Latex Engineer in the
Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade!
What? You thought I would be climbing a freaking mountain? Please! If I’m climbing, it’s onto a barstool. Ok, ok so my dream may not be on the grandiose scale of climbing mountains, but the upside to my shortcomings is…my dream is doable.
If you didn’t already know, the Lorax has been inspiring kids to think and talk about the environment for more than ten years. A match made in heaven, if I do say so myself.
Now, I will admit when I first realized this dream could be a reality, my heart did skip a beat. I didn’t respond immediately because believe it or not, I loathe parades. I know, I know, I know. Just another opportunity for doubt to creep into this over-crowded head. Do I let my dream die over a mere technicality like loathing the venue? Hell no!
As you might imagine, my enthusiasm over this opportunity has been met with mixed reactions. The expression to your right followed by long awkward pauses, high-pitched responses and laughter pretty much sums it up. It was probably due to my OMG! GUESS WHAT I’M GOING TO DO? introduction.
I’ve already attended training not practice TRAINING last week, which was a bit of an eye opener.
A woman in our group, who did not appear to be ruler of the free world, felt the need to answer her cell phone while holding the balloon. As if that wasn’t bad enough, during the “clockwise” “counter-clockwise” session there was lets just say….hesitation. Dear Lord I’m in Mr. Kotter’s class!
praying confident they’ll pull it together on the big day. Feel free to throw a Hail Mary’s this way … just in case.
Since the training, several emails have been sent with additional instructions. One in particular titled ABSOLUTELY NO EARMUFFS!! left me baffled. Confession: The all caps and double explication points had me laughing out loud. It remains a mystery as to why the EARMUFFS are banished from the parade, but if I’m being honest, it makes me want to wear them even more.
Now that we’re getting down to the wire, I received my “BALLOON HANDER JOB DESCRIPTION” it was written exactly as it appears. Let me just say, in case there were any doubts, Latex Engineer will be added to my resume. It’s much more complex than you imagine…trust me.
So while everyone is gathered around the table this Thanksgiving expressing their gratitude for the years bounty, I will be coming down from my high after a stellar performance at the 92nd annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Living the dream and Enjoying the Ride!