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June 22, 2008
Celtics Parade A Rite of Passage, Again
BY: Kevin Rousseau

It's the pleasant surprises that sneak up on you in life that make the difference.

It could be stumbling upon a beautiful brunette at a cookout when she wasn't looking for a boyfriend just two weeks before she was going to start medical school.

Or getting the shocking news that your wife is pregnant again only months after giving birth to your long-awaited first child. Now that little girl and her curly hair has you wrapped around her little finger.

And if you follow sports at all, the championships that sneak up and bite you in the rear end are the ones that truly make you walk on air and still give you goosebumps years later.

So it was with the 17th Celtics NBA title that landed in our lap last week. As far as surprises go, it's not the '04 Red Sox or the '01 Patriots but it is within a bus stop or two. Before each of those titles, we would keep the light on year after year with an almost vain hope that someday loyalty and faith would be rewarded. "They're building," you would keep telling anyone would listen. "Next year is our year," were automatically the next words out of your mouth.

Then one day after a few lucky breaks and some clutch performances, you are staring at the television and allowing yourself to mutter to no one in particular "I can't believe this is happening."

Besides providing life surprises, unexpected championships have a way of making us reflect on people and times gone by. Who doesn't get emotional while recalling strolling by a cemetery in October 2004 and seeing Red Sox memorabilia strewn throughout? "They pulled it off, Grandma. You wouldn't have believed it. And to boot, they finally stuck it to the Yanks. Geez, why did you have to die in March?"

After the Celtics 1986 victory, my parents allowed me to take the train into Boston with a friend of mine for the City Hall rally. I suppose they figured it was the end of the school year and the grades weren't all that bad. Looking back, it was a rite of passage and a cherished memory. If I hadn't gone, it would have been just another long forgotten day at King Philip North Junior High School.

As the clock wound down on a stunning coronation last Tuesday, I started thinking about making the trek down to Boston for the rolling rally. After all, it's been 22 years and a generic work day was on the docket for Thursday anyways. And this is where this story comes alive.

Apparently, if you are of high school age in Eastern Massachusetts it's not that hard to convince all of your friends to head into Boston for a pretty cool way to spend the first day of summer vacation. But if you have to work for a living, trying to find someone to drop everything and burn a vacation day can be a little difficult. Enter my three-and-a-half year-old son, Jake.

On first blush, it is perhaps a reportable offense to DHS to drag a toddler out of bed at 5 a.m. to go to an event with several hundred thousand people in a city that doesn't look quite as familiar as it once did. Sure the over-gentrification of Boston is nice but there's a little part of me that misses the edge the city has lost. But after weighing it out, I figured if it got too crazy I could bag out and Make Way For Ducklings in the Public Garden. Decision made.

Sure, smelling the smoke from Sam Cassell's cigar and seeing Kevin Garnett clutching the Larry O'Brien Trophy was great but what will make our day together a lifetime memory is the vision of Jake on my shoulders with a wide smile as he watched the parade. "The green basketball team won a trophy so they are having a parade for them, Jakey."

Throw in unexpectedly hooking up with my friend Joe and his young gang and the joy is much more measurable when shared within a community. Again, the perplexed look on Bob Cousy's face is nice but the memory of strolling around the North End afterwards and hearing one of the kids (who ironically happens to be in junior high) look at their camera and shout out "I got Garnett" will be a better bookmark of the day.

I suppose as it was in 1986, this Celtics celebration marked a rite of passage. I was able to pull off---on paper anyways---something that was way out of my parenting comfort zone. And just how do you put a price on holding him in my arms and dancing in circles to "Shipping Up To Boston" in a much saner City Hall Plaza 22 years later? The smile on his face will be at the front of my brain will be the day's bookmark.

Vacation time well spent and reward for keeping a light on.


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