EDITOR’S NOTE | By Tamara Davis
Everyone Likes to be Part of a Team
“I like your paw print,” I said to the little girl sitting across from my daughter and I at the Memorial Day Pancake Breakfast in Oak View, 2018. “What does that represent?” I asked her.
“Bobcats,” her brothers answered in unison. “We go to Sunset School.” The little girl waved at five-year-old Zoey who melted into my lap faster than the butter atop the cakes.
“Samantha doesn’t go to our school yet; she’s too young, but she likes to pretend,” her big brother kindly clarified. All three kids had paw-print tattoos painted on their cheeks as did their mother, the artist.
“Everyone likes to be part of a team,” I said and then smiled at Samantha who finished her breakfast.
“See you outside at the parade,” the eldest mascot happily waved as they discarded their paper plates.
I looked around the Legion. Everyone was on the red-and-blue team. Uniformed police officers, former soldiers, and civilians alike. Veterans drinking black coffee displayed their allegiance proudly — shirts and hats indicated rate and rank. Navy ships spanned across their backs. Badges and ribbons commemorated their service. Together, we ate in honor of fallen teammates.
For six dollars, I sat among the old-timers, the relics, the war heroes, the blue- clad group. Trying to fit in, I wore my U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Strike Team shirt, “strike” being a misnomer meaning hazmat response, not missile. Homeland Security, not Department of Defense. She’s too young, they may have thought about my mere four years of military service, but she likes to pretend.
The big parade is held in our small suburb of Ojai proper where rural Oak View residents are routinely relegated to “rednecks.” Little do the elite know that Oak View puts on a great show! Underdogs drive a classy John Deere. Top brass tractors, vintage vehicles, fire trucks, prancing horses, Azteca dancers, marching bands, school reps, and scout troupes traversed the street behind our house. Four planes even flew in formation overhead. Every team demonstrated pride in membership, not necessarily patriotism. Two churches cap the ends of the parade route, and one hosted the afterparty. Living on the outskirts has its flair. And it has milder weather.
As my daughter and I walked home with a miniature flag tucked into my back pocket, I thought about the bipartisan participants observing Memorial Day in Oak View: Bobcats, veterans, tractor drivers, firefighters, horse riders, dancers, musicians, scouts, and the congregation singing outside their sanctuary. I realized that maybe the celebration wasn’t just about love of country; maybe it’s simply about community. Everyone likes to be part of a team.