Back in the winter of ’97 my parents were wandering an antique store and noticed an old metal sign for Sunmaid Raisins that simply proclaimed “WEDNESDAY IS RAISIN DAY”. Something about this tickled my mother and father and for a few weeks it was an oft-repeated inside joke between them. My brother Steve and I, too young to understand irony as humor, watched with the wide, rolling eyes of embarrassed children as they endlessly reminded each other that “WEDNESDAY IS RAISIN DAY”, laughing like loons each time.
As fate would have it, sometime deep in Raisin Day period of hilarity one of them spied an ad in the “Community Events” section of the newspaper for a decorated umbrella parade. My mother saw this as a perfect opportunity for what she called a “Triple F” outing, meaning “Forced Family Fun”. She was all about making us attend community events. I was reluctant as a child but as an adult I thank her; I met one of my lifelong best friends at a cookie baking contest at the library when I was ten because of this enthusiasm, though that’s another story entirely.
The night before the parade we finished dinner and gathered round the table as my parents presented us with our supplies: an umbrella, a tube of Elmer’s glue and a can of raisins. As a family, we spelled out “WEDNESDAY IS RAISIN DAY”, in raisins, on an umbrella- thrilled parents and pissed off children together.
The next afternoon we joined the other participants by the Farmers Market. I remember noticing a distinct lack of fellow children and a large number of threatening, Martha Stewart-type women surrounding us. We had been instructed to keep our umbrellas closed until the parade began, when we would open them all at once in a dramatic unveiling. So we stood in the winter drizzle, closed umbrella in hand, my parents vibrating in gleeful, giggling anticipation while my brother and I sulked in the cold, wishing we were home watching TV.
Someone blew a whistle and we all opened our umbrellas in a dramatic flourish. As we looked around at everyone else’s umbrellas my mother’s expression turned from smug glee to horror. My parents had missed one detail about this strange parade: it was Christmas themed.
Steve and I were openly mortified but my parents charged ahead and we marched unacknowledged, our canopy of raisins and melting Elmer’s glue looking absolutely insane amongst the smiling Santas and glitter glue nutcrackers. Our parents endured, despite their embarrassment. Anything else would mean admitting their skeptical children had won.
We made our way down Capitol, forcing smiles as the rain fell harder. The glue didn’t hold and raisins began slowly sliding off our umbrella. Raisin by raisin, our strange message was further obscured. I was so embarrassed I wanted to cry, sensing side-eyed judgement from the Martha Stewart ladies as our masterpiece melted.
We trudged down a few more blocks, leaving a trail of soggy raisins behind our miserable crew. I don’t recall this “parade” having any spectators. Suddenly we passed an alley and my father hissed through his teeth: “Hey, let’s get out of here!” I vowed to forgive them both for everything as long as we could leave.
Relief flooded through me as we snapped the umbrella closed and a final cascade of raisins fell to the ground. Together, as a family, we ran away down the alley, all the way to the car, and went back home to watch TV.