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Bring On The Parade
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There have been relatively few things in my life that have left me speechless, unable to think what to say or feel. Of the two that spring immediately to mind, one was tragic, the other life-changing.

Covering an explosion that leveled half of a small town in the county where I started my newspaper career in upstate New York was tragic; it was like walking into a war zone after a bomb had been dropped. The birth of my daughter in 1996 was life-changing ... it's hard now to imagine a time without her.

Add one more speechless moment to the list; getting asked to be the Grand Marshal for Escalon's 2008 Homecoming Parade.

When I headed to the high school on Thursday to meet with Homecoming Commissioners Lindsey Anderson and Kaitlyn Brayton, we were supposed to go over the various dress up days, the Homecoming theme, times for the parade and all other aspects of the Oct. 3 event. Instead, they said they first wanted to ask me a question. No problem, I thought, what did they need?

A bouquet of flowers was presented to me and they asked: "Will you be our Grand Marshal?"

It was at that moment that I'm almost sure my jaw hit the floor. (I'm pretty short, so at least it wasn't a long drop.) I accepted the flowers and said something to the effect that they must be kidding and what were they thinking and, oh my gosh, how do you turn something like that down?

Next thing I knew, I was smiling and hugging and accepting the honor and assistant principal Dave Lattig had my camera in his hands and was telling us all to smile. (See photo, page A7.)

Lindsey, who is one of the few students at the high school that is as height-challenged as I am, was standing there and Kaitlyn - who stretches several inches above both of us - was sitting nearby and started to stand for the photo. Lindsey and I both assured her it was okay for her to stay seated. So we smiled for the camera and then I didn't know what to do. Literally, I had forgotten why I was there. Fumbling with my notebook, I tried to remember what questions I was supposed to ask them about Homecoming but it was no use. My mind couldn't focus; I was just too overwhelmed with the entire situation.

Truly touched is a good way to put it. Escalon has been part of my life for more than a dozen years and I know I've still got 50 years or so to go before the old timers consider me a 'local,' but friends and associates know if you cut me, I bleed purple.

My job has its ups and downs, covering the good, the bad and occasionally the ugly, but this community has always been supportive of its local paper and that is something that can't be taken for granted in this day and age. When you can hop on the Internet and find out what's happening all over the world in just a few seconds, the fact that people still take the time to sit down, read the Letters to the Editor, see what's going on with the school clubs and find out how the football team did on Friday night, is testament to the community spirit that makes Escalon unique.

It has remained a small town. People grow up, leave, find out there's really no place that compares ... and often come home. One graduate I ran into at the Friday night home football game was just getting ready to head back to UCLA for another year and admitted she can't wait to be done and come back to Escalon. She wanted to see the world, get out of the small town. She did ... and now she knows Escalon is where she wants to be.

Some will leave and find their niche elsewhere but for most, it's hard to beat this town.

Kids at the high school today were just getting started with their school years when I came to be editor. Taylor Finch, a senior this year and the Associated Student Body President, was one of the youngsters I took a photo of long ago at the Arts Alive festival. To see these kids grow up literally before my eyes - and through my camera lens - has been a joy and I can't begin to convey how honored I am that they have asked me to participate in their Homecoming this year in such a personal way.

My co-workers were all excited for me and one of the first questions they asked was "What are you going to wear?"

There's no need for suspense there ... it'll be an Escalon T-shirt and my letterman jacket. I just have to practice that parade wave.