For 23 years I sat on the sofa on New Year's Day, watching the Philadelphia Mummers Parade. It's a fabulous parade. It lasts all day.
About 15 years into the watching, I started to think it might be fun to be in the parade. I just didn't know anyone who was a Mummer. I had no idea how to seek one out.
About 20 years into the watching, my hip failed and I could hardly walk. Then I got my hip fixed, and I could walk again.
At year 22 I became determined to become a Mummer. I'd been living in the Delaware Valley since 1987. Surely that made my Philly bona fides acceptable!
I called around. One group did not accept me because they already had too many members. That's when I contacted the large comic clubs in South Philly and discovered that for most ... nay, the vast majority ... of comic clubs, size is not an issue. The more, the merrier!
During this exploratory phase, I got gracious phone calls from the presidents of the two biggest comic clubs. Through the Goodtimers, I got connected to a South Jersey unit called the Two Street Stompers. I officially became a Stomper in November of 2011.
I marched with the Two Street Stompers on January 1, 2012. Our routine, "Wenchtoberfest," won first prize.
I marched with the Two Street Stompers on January 1, 2013. Our routine, "Two Street Gold Rush," finished fourth. Honestly, I thought we got robbed. It was hysterical.
Next week is the first meeting of the Two Street Stompers aimed at the 2014 parade. You can best bet I will be there with bells on.
Here's where all of this begins to feel like a blessing from the bored gods.
Back in April, my daughter The Spare learned (quite by chance) that her university has a scholarship specifically for the child of a Mummer. This sounds far-fetched until you understand that Spare goes to the University of the Arts, which is chock-a-block with musicians and performers and dancers. Some grateful graduate must have gone on to have a wonderful career as a Mummer.
Well, Spare applied for the scholarship. But frankly I didn't think she would get it, because on the totem pole of Mumming, comic clubs are closer to the bottom than to the top. I figured there must be a second-generation Mummer at Spare's college, someone who actually performed music in a string band or something.
You know where this is headed, right?
Spare got the scholarship. And it's not chump change. And instead of deducting it from her financial aid package, the university applied it to her tuition.
My daughter got a college scholarship because I dress up in sequins on New Year's Day and go out and perform a funny routine with a big, well-organized bunch of people who absolutely personify the monnicker "Goodtimers."
You can't make this up. Mummers are supposed to be speechless. I am.
Now, before I finish bragging about my role in this, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my daughter The Spare ... drum roll ... made dean's list both semesters of her freshman year. That might have had a lil' bit of influence on the Mummer scholarship committee!
Happy birthday to Walt Whitman! I don't know about you, but right at this moment I'm really feeling like sounding a barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.