What the Tractors Taught Me: Lessons in the Rain

Last night a friend and I went to the Holiday Tractor Parade down in Greenwich, New York. It turned out to be a lot cooler and more fun than even I thought it sounded like at first, too. Judging by the turnout, it’s becoming quite an event. Next year they will probably sell tickets.

Greenwich is near the border with Vermont, set in a rolling landscape that is rich and very green, great for farmers and artists alike. It is kind of unique in that it has managed to remain a truly agricultural and farm-friendly town, while at the same time supporting a thriving arts community. It is exactly the kind of place that would bring a lighted tractor parade to life, and have a huge crowd of people come out to see it.

I, however, am not a big Christmas person. Yes, I’m one of those people. I have a hard time with lights going up already, Christmas decorations lining store shelves and music all over the radio. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet. So it felt a little early to me to be putting on a holiday parade, and certainly way too early for me to go to watch one.

But I have to admit, I had a really good time. Farms large and small and organizations that support them from around the area rolled out tractors, haywagons, and a few pieces of farm equipment I couldn’t identify loaded down with Christmas lights. Though I didn’t count them, I’ll bet close to a hundred tractors paraded down Main Street last night. They were dazzling, fun, and very festive. Even a borderline grinch like myself couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear, snapping pictures as each one passed by, more colorful than the last, caught up in the magic of the lights.

With one big caveat– it started to rain about halfway through. Just a bit at first, which wasn’t bad. A light drizzle, no big deal. I was kind of prepared for that – umbrella, hat, water-repellant coat. It wasn’t even cold for November, close to sixty degrees. Everyone, including me, was probably happy to celebrate that fact alone. Normally we’d all have frozen our rear-ends off standing out on a street corner in November at night up here, watching tractors roll by.

Instead we got drenched. A gusty wind started blowing in, and the umbrella wasn’t a whole lot of help after that. My jacket soaked through where it stuck out from underneath the one my friend and I were sharing, and rain spattered my glasses. I had to stop taking pictures because my hands grew too stiff and wet, and my precious phone was, of course, in danger of drowning.

Unable to bear up under the weather any longer, my friend and I started walking back to her house. She lives in the town, so it wasn’t far. We wove around and swerved through the remaining crowd, people still lined up valiantly on the street as tractors continued rolling along, raising our umbrellas as needed so as not to knock anyone in the head or poke them in the eye. We managed to see the last tractor, Santa being towed on his sleigh, before turning down a side street to avoid the mass exodus behind us.

Most people were a lot less prepared than we’d been. Sixty degrees in wind and rain starts to feel a lot colder when you’re soaked through. I imagine there will be a rash of colds and chills a few days from now after last night. Some headline will probably read, “Family of four gets flu, sues Greenwich Tractor Parade.”

On our walk back, wet, cold and rather grouchy, I started complaining to my friend about how the rain had kind of ruined everything for everyone, for me at least. I griped about how I would like to have stayed, taken more pictures, not gotten soaked to the skin. Having at last embraced the festivity of the night, the spirit of the holiday season to come, I had been denied. It had literally rained on my parade.

My friend, ever the optimist now, said that she believed that was exactly what would make the night more memorable, for me, her and everyone else who came to watch the parade. That it is the anomalies, not the ordinary, that stand out, that make memories stay more with us.

I didn’t agree much at the time, but I considered the idea a lot more on my drive home. More this morning when I got up, thinking of what to write. My friend said I could take her idea and write about it here, which I am. But I’m giving it back to her, too.

I think it’s possible that she’s right, at least partially so. I think extremes of either joy or pain, miracles and tragedies, the unique, the different, the anomalies, do imprint themselves on our minds more profoundly than the day-to-day. They stand out, shake us up, make us question or reevaluate our expectations. Maybe that is what nature intended, maybe that is just part of how we learn, how we are meant to remember.

Not that my rained on parade was a tragedy. Quite the opposite, really. But the whole evening turned out to be not what I expected. It did not start out that way, with my Christmas grumpy pants pulled up high, and it didn’t end that way for me, either. Between the rainbow of lights and roaring tractor engines, the rain and wind, and the conversation with my friend on our walk home, the memory, I know, will stay with me.

Warm and dry now, I can recall the disappointment as well as the magic of the evening. Both mixed up together, weaving their way through my consciousness, an anomaly, as my friend called it, by the contrast of the experiences. It certainly makes for a good story to tell, and a memorable one, I think, to share.