For the past 15 years, my wife and I have spent the 4th of July sitting on a curb somewhere in Dallas.

Some years, we’ve been among a handful of people watching a few bikes and trikes snake down a quiet street – calling the gathering a parade would stretch even Webster’s definition. Other years, we’ve been a few among the multitude as motorcycles, vintage automobiles, horses, bands, floats, bikes, trikes and strollers cruised past our perch.

For years, our sons couldn’t wait to land a front-street near the start of the parade, virtually guaranteeing them a red Radio Flyer wagon full of candy and treats. They scrambled into the street to retrieve short tosses, and the ducked and dodged with the rest of us when the Super Soakers rode by, hosing the crowd down with water.

My mother-in-law occasionally drives in from 45 miles away to see the parade; she brings along a portable chair and looks for a spot beneath a shady street-side tree. The vintage cars interest her most, although that’s a relative term since many were the “hot cars” when she was younger.

My parents live in Minnesota, too far away to visit on the 4th, although heat more than distance keeps them away from Texas in July. Just watching our parade gives me a reason to call them, find out how their day is going, tell them what we saw and what we did and how many people lined the street.

That morning, we see the regulars, of course, the people we see just about every day of the year, even if our acquaintance only involves waving as they pull their cars out of the garage at precisely the same time as we drive to or from school each day. And then there are those we run into who are occasional friends from the cleaners or the hardware store or the burger joint. Other people happen by the parade route that we haven’t seen for years – families formerly held together by the sacred bond of a 1st grade YMCA soccer team or fellow members of a neighborhood non-profit group or simply neighbors who have moved on to other homes in other locales but stop back every 4th for a visit.

Every year, someone asks if our family is going to ride bikes along the parade route, and some other bleary-eyed souls will suggest that maybe we’d like to ride on a float they’ve constructed in their garage, usually earlier that morning. Sometimes we’ve been tempted, because half the fun of a parade is participating in it.

But then again, sitting on the curb, watching and waving and laughing as our neighborhood passes by, is an important way of participating, too.