PITTSFIELD — I haven't marched in a Memorial Day parade in a long time, but I remember it well. A terrifying experience.
It was all my fault. I was a Cub Scout at the time. When my den mother, who was, by the way, my actual mother, told us we would be marching in the Memorial Day Parade in Adams, I wasn't terribly concerned. I had never marched in a parade before, but come on. How hard could it be?
I was soon to find out. We assembled an hour or so before the actual parade at, I think, what is now the Big Y parking lot. Then it was the Adams Super Market lot.
So I get there, in my snazzy Cub Scout uniform with that little Cub Scout cap. At our chapter, a few weeks earlier, we had all made these cool-looking slides for our neckerchiefs. (Just fyi, the "slide" is the metal ornament that a Cub Scout slides onto his neckerchief to keep it together.)
They were plaster and we had customized them. Mine said CSA (Cub Scouts of America) with Adams, Mass., written underneath it. All in blue paint with a red background. I thought it was neat, but utile.
But as I was standing in the lot, I noticed that all the other Cub Scouts — ALL of them — had the regulation neckerchief slide. Oh man, I was out of uniform!
I drifted to the outer edge of the group of Cub Scouts. I considered making a run for it. My house was only a few blocks away. What, I wondered, was the penalty for this? To me, the scouts seemed incredibly tough and regimental. I knew I wasn't going to be shot at sunrise or anything, but public humiliation did not seem out of the question.
The group started to form. I steeled myself and snuck to the rear of the unit. No one seemed to notice the ersatz slide.
One of the scoutmasters began talking. This would be real easy, he said. Just follow my voice command: "Your left, your left, left, right, left."
What? Left-right-left? Good Christmas, what a horror show! I had never been taught my left from my right! (I didn't figure that out till I began working at The Eagle.) What was this fresh hell?
A whistle blew somewhere. Everybody around me started marching in place. I paid close attention to the guy in front of me and tried to mimic him as he lifted his feet.
It worked fairly well until I hit Park Street. Then some of my relatives would spot me and began shouting my name. Every time I looked up to acknowledge them, I'd step out of place. A couple times, I ran into the guy ahead of me.
Somehow, I made it to the end of the parade. My shoes were scuffed and I was emotionally exhausted. A few moments after we finished, one of the scoutmasters came up to me.
"Hey, Derek, nice slide," he said.
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.