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I love a parade. And so do the Shriners.

Agggghh! People often ask me how I “do it all,” and the fact is, sometimes I can’t. Like this week (and next week, by the looks of it) which has shaped up to be the perfect storm of day-job work, novel promotion (including my big “tour” ha with events in Maine today, and Connecticut and New York next week), and, oh yes, of course, I’ve got a cold. And did I mention I have four-year-old twins?

So, when this happens, sadly it’s my writing, including this blog, that gets the shaft. Along with my husband. And exercise. And being able to relax instead of work after the kids go to bed. (God, I hate working at night.)

BUT this is the way it goes with my life/work/writing situation, and I love my life/work/writing situation, so I can’t really complain. But being sick? That I can complain about. (Although zinc lozenges are currently saving my life.) And now, poor little Clio is sick, too.

But in the midst of it all, I did want to take a few moments to get down some thoughts about the Shriners. Yes, that’s right, the Shriners. The fraternal organization dedicated to providing free orthopedic and burn care to children.

I took the girls to the Memorial Day Parade in beautiful Somerville, Mass. on Sunday, and I swear to God, a good quarter of the thing was the Shriners. They apparently came from all over the state, all in their fezes, emblazoned with their titles: Potentate, Oriental Something-or-Other, High Prophet and Priest, Grand Poobah, etc.

And each little division (club? Shrine?) had their own parade shtick. Some were in a band. Some rode motorcycles. Some were in the signature Shriners mini-vehicles. (Mini tractor trailer trucks, in this case.) Some wore politically incorrect Arab costumes and rode on a big truck while playing hand drums. One guy had a truck with an old calliope machine on it. Some were clowns. Clearly, everyone had some serious fun on eBay.

The clown Shriners were particularly notable: there were six guys, all probably in their late fifties and up, in full clown paint, costumes and wigs, riding in a little open truck thingy. And then one thirty-something guy sitting with them, in ordinary street clothes (plus fez) looking totally embarrassed. And I couldn’t help wondering if he was thinking: I can’t believe my dad not only made me join this freaking club; he also made me ride with him in the parade. Look at him, looking like an idiot in that rainbow wig. As soon as he’s in a nursing home, I swear to God, I’m going to give this fucking fez to my kids so they can play Aladdin and Jasmine dress-up and I never want to hear the word “Shriners” again.

I’m not trying to put the Shriners down. Not at all. They do great work, and it looks like the guys really have a good time. I mean, clearly parades are a huge deal from them. In fact, I suspect this is one of the big appeals of the organization: Join the shriners! You get to wear a fez, hang out with other fun-loving men in your community (Make that “man” if you’re under 50) and help children. But…wait for it…you also get to MARCH IN PARADES!!

I’m sold. Is there a Shriners women’s auxiliary?

As for Elsa and Clio’s reaction to the Shriners—all ten thousand of them—they liked the hats. And the costumes. And the miniature cars and motorcycles were definitely a hit. Clio was intrigued by the sidecar on one of the motorcycles, which she apparently must have seen in a book or a TV show. (“Did you know that’s a real thing, mommy?” she said when she saw it.) But they were far more interested in the people dressed up as superheroes, and the people who threw candy. The Shriners did not deliver on that front, choosing to focus on saving children’s lives instead of rotting their teeth, God bless ‘em.

So, bottom line, I am intrigued and mystified by the Shriners, and delighted by their somewhat anachronistic existence.

And now, I must go do the ten thousand other things I need to do. Sigh.

P.S. There’s yet another chance to win a free copy of EDEN LAKE, paper or Kindle, (and participate in an author discussion) over at The Next Best Book Blog now through June 15!

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Photo: Zoomar

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