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A Pickle Parade for quiet heroes


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001

Sunday JournalMy sister Holly called me from Wisconsin to announce her intention to march in the Pickle Parade. I am using my literary license to call it the Pickle Parade because I like the alliteration.

It's actually part of the Boyceville, Wis., Cucumber Festival, also called Picklefest. Locals have been celebrating their cucumber crop in this marching manner for many a moon.

Boyceville is in Dunn County, Wis., where, just to give you the flavor of the place, the Dunn County News reports that Eric Sorensen has been performing on various stringed instruments from 7 to 10 p.m. in the lounge of the Creamery, which is just off Highway 25.

Dunn County, the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, is where the Better Badger Baby Bus (I'm not the only alliterative one) tours the area with information on childhood development. It is where Mr. Alviar caught a 22-pound muskie out of Lake Menomin, and where my sister Holly taught elementary school for 10 years.

Holly will be marching in the Pickle Parade with a group of people who raised funds for cancer research. She will push my niece, Sarah, in a stroller.

I have a picture of Holly and her fundraising friends that was printed in the district newsletter. They are a shiny-faced, milk-toothed group of Midwestern women wearing T-shirts that say Relay for Life. Holly is standing in the back row, third from the right, smiling. She knows a bit about cancer. She has a husband, a grandmother and two sisters who survived it. She had an aunt who did not. I'm one of the sisters who did.

Being told you have cancer is like a swift kick into a long, dark tunnel. I tried to figure a detour (They must have made a mistake!) but there I was, in the dark, no way around. You gotta go through. So I started walking, a bit wobbly in the knees, whistling in the dark. I expect to receive the Academy Award for Acting Brave any day.

Those of us who come out the other end of that tunnel, into the arms of our families and friends, are very grateful. Sure, attitude makes a difference. But we know those who didn't make it were just as brave, just as worthy, just as strong, probably (sometimes) excellent actors also. Makes me wonder if Lance Armstrong gets tired of all that survivor hoopla. He probably knows he was very blessed.

I look at Holly's smiling face. She's only 34 but she has stood, waiting, at the far end of that tunnel too often. She felt the fear and looked into the darkness, and she did it with grace and courage beyond her years. Sometimes, when you're shaky on your feet, it helps to look up into a pair of loving eyes. This is where I mention the loving eyes of my other sisters or I could get into BIG trouble. Even though I'm the oldest and the boss of them all. Thanks, Cath. Thanks, Juli.

Holly tells me the people in the Pickle Parade have to go around the block and march by twice because the parade is so short. Go around as many times as you want, baby sis. You deserve a parade, even if you have to share it with pickles, five Boyceville princesses complete with tiaras and the Boyceville Baby Bathing Beauties.

A cheer for you and all those who wait with love and hope.

I did not make up the Boyceville Baby Bathing Beauties.

* * *

Mary Jo Nelson is involved, as she puts it, in "unstructured work."

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