It has always been tradition in my family to celebrate Black Diamond Days. It's a yearly celebration that originally began to celebrate.......well, coal. The town that I grew up in, and consider my hometown is on the small side. It's pretty rural, I guess you could say. And this celebration, the first weekend in June, is a must-visit on my list. I have been to the Sunday parade every year....missing only a few. My grandma lives at the start of the parade route, so it's tradition that we all sit on her front lawn to watch the parade go by.
It truly is bitter sweet for me now. All of the memories of watching the parade in that front yard... Seeing mom and dad on grandma and grandpa's front porch seeking shade and us kids all sitting on the curb with bags in our hands just waiting for the candy to be thrown in our direction. Grandma and Grandpa always sat on the porch swing to watch.
This year, I sat on the curb next to my little girl, with a bag in her hand.
Dad has been gone for almost six years now. And every year that I visit this parade and celebration, it brings me to tears. This celebration centered around dad. Not because he was a coal miner or anything like that.... but he was a volunteer fireman. The parade always starts with the local fire departments parading their shiny trucks, lights on and a few rings of the sirens to signal the start of the parade. Dad sometimes drove one of the trucks and I remember my brothers sometimes riding along.
Seeing those firetrucks start the parade and ring the siren makes me cry.
I miss him so much.
He was so proud to be a fireman.
After the parade, we'd walk to the carnival and get to ride rides until the conclusion of the celebration. The volunteer firemen always have a fish tent. They serve *the best* fish sandwiches.
The last few years of dad's life, he wasn't able to work and the days leading up to this big celebration in such a little town proved to be busy for him. He would drive to go pick up all of the fish from the fishery. Then he would spend a whole day making tartar sauce and putting it in the little plastic cups.
He took pride in doing "his job" for the department. And I was so proud to get to visit him there and see how important he felt.
He lost his leg due to complications with diabetes and because of that, this hard working man was told he couldn't work anymore. Talk about a blow to his self-esteem. But no one told him that he was too disabled to help at the firehouse. Of course, he couldn't fight fires anymore but he did everything else that he could.
I remember the last time that I visited him at the firehouse. He was making the tartar sauce and filling the cups. Something so simple but so important.
I remember him being so excited to show me around the firehouse. Even though I'd toured it every single year....he showed off the place like it was my first time. I climbed up in the trucks the same way that I did when I was 7.
And this year, my little girl is big enough for her own tour. But unfortunately, grandpa isn't here to give her one. It hurts my heart. I know how proud he would have been to show her around and show her his important jobs leading up to the big celebration.
When the firetrucks started the parade this year, she waved and said "bye bye big truck." She has no clue that her PaPa John was once a part of that team of big trucks.
We mention him every night in her bedtime prayers and I look forward to the year that she is old enough to be told the story of him and maybe take a tour of the firehouse with her Uncle, my brother. He is a volunteer fireman on that department and now wears my dad's number.
Just like we always do, we walked to the carnival after the parade. The fish tent had already closed down for the day because their "famous" fish sandwiches were sold out. So for the second year in a row, I had to miss out on my favorite sandwich. But I did get to take my little girl to play the "duckie game" which I still remember looking forward to playing each year. She loved it.
I don't think a year will come that we don't make the drive for Black Diamond Days. It's so much more than a celebration of coal....to me, anyway.