(This was my Undercurrents column for Dec. 15, 2002)
We ran out of trinkets too soon, which may have made some kids on the sidelines feel slighted but probably saved those of us "walking" beside the News Herald truck from falling dead of heart failure.
From the southern tip of Harrison Avenue to the intersection with Seventh Street, we had run back and forth between a garland-bedecked pickup and the crowded sidewalks, handing out newspapers and candy and goodie bags.
The truck managed to stay a half-block ahead of us, making us jog to catch up. Until, that is, the supplies ran out and all we had left to share was our spirit. We walked and waved and danced and shouted greetings. We shook hands and exchanged hugs with those who called out to us. We sang along to Joy to the World.
It was pretty cool.
Dec. 7 marked my first time seeing the annual Panama City Christmas Parade from the inside-out, so to speak. Many a chilly Saturday evening in the Christmas season, I've enjoyed watching from the sidelines - reining in my children as they scrambled for candy, or videotaping or photographing the proceedings.
It was always fun to see people that I knew as they passed in the parade, silly grins pasted on their faces. I'd shout their names and sometimes they would even hear me through the noise of the crowd. We'd share a wave and smile, a moment of connection.
I never realized how much fun they were having.
Maybe not the band members, as they concentrated on their music and stayed in step. Of all those on parade, the musicians, baton twirlers and flag wavers probably have the hardest jobs. They can't afford distraction at the wrong moment or a tuba player might swallow an errant baton.
But the rest of them - driving their tricked-out cars, sitting on floats and waving, or just walking along and handing out candy (no throwing allowed) - the rest of them were just having fun.
They were soaking in the glimmer in little kids' eyes when a mint was dropped in tiny gloved hands. They were basking in a cheer from a halfdozen kids shouting "Merry Christmas!" back at them. They were enjoying the waves and the wishes, or surprise hugs from a cousin or an old friend they don't see often enough.
It wasn't the chill in the air that froze a silly grin on my face (or even the antics of the Pink Flamingo chapter of the Sweet Potato Queens on the float that trailed us).
It must have been some of that aforementioned "Joy to the World."