There is a picture of me – a cherubic preschooler with a black bowl haircut –standing in my grandmother’s San Gabriel driveway, grinning but visibly cold. I am weighted down with Rose Parade gear: a red barette, a 1985 adult-sized Rose Bowl sweatshirt, a rose-embroidered blanket and a beach chair. It was New Year’s Day 1990, and I was heading to catch a glimpse of the Tournament of Roses Parade.

My great grandma attended the parade when it was still horses and buggies displaying local fauna in their wheel spokes. My grandma and her friend would walk down a eucalyptus-lined Atlantic Boulevard every New Year’s morning to hitchhike a ride from Alhambra to Pasadena. By the time my mother and her brother and sister were old enough to withstand the frigid morning adventure, my grandmother had devised a better plan of attack.

Since she was the only parent on Melhorn Drive who would brave the event, neighborhood kids would meet at the house before the sun came up and pile into her station wagon. The secret, she says, is not camping out the night before: go at 8 a.m. My grandmother’s parade-watching brood would park at the corner of Lake and Del Mar, walk four blocks to Colorado and try to squeeze in front of the people that had been there all night.

Although the Tournament of Roses Parade was a New Year’s Day tradition for most of my mother’s childhood, I only went once (wearing an oversized Rose Bowl sweatshirt and a little red barette), and, unfortunately, I was too young to remember its splendor.

But years later, after my mom got sick and passed away, my grandmother and I returned to see the flower-and-seed covered floats. This time, though, they were hiding under a white big top in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl, and I was there to make a very important addition.

With a blooming white orchid in a water-filled vial, I walked up to the float sponsored by my mother’s alma mater and was directed to an empty spot along the base. As I put the flower next to the others and watched it disappear into the cacophony of white blooms, I thought about all the years my family has spent being spectators of this great event and how – because of a flower donation made in my mother’s name – one of us was now a part of it.

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