It’s hard to put into words what it means to be recognized for workin’ hard. But I’m gonna try, because being asked to be the Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade not only made my year, it made every sack lunch I packed, every sleepless night and every penny I squeezed, so worth it.
As a girl growin’ up in southwestern Georgia, I didn’t have the imagination to ever dream of visiting California, let alone leading a parade through the crowd-filled streets of Pasadena. So when I rolled in that lead car down Colorado Boulevard, waving both my hands like a windshield wiper gone wild (I knew I wouldn’t last two seconds doing that princess wave), I got emotional. I had expected parade-loving families and football fans, but for some reason I didn’t expect so many people to be cheering for me. People were waving signs that said, “We love you, Paula Deen,” and using pots and wooden spoons as noisemakers! Half the time I couldn’t even see their faces because my eyes kept filling with tears of joy.
You know, the Rose Parade is something that I’ve watched on TV for years. It’s a tradition in our house to have it on while I’m cooking my turnip greens and black-eyed peas to ring in the New Year. And for me to be there after feeling so connected to it all these years was surreal. I couldn’t believe that I had been chosen out of every person in this United States to lead that parade.
Surely the best part of the whole celebration was being able to share it with my family. And the parade organizers were kind enough to understand when I showed up with an entourage made up of our children, aunts and uncles. They even let the men in our family gather at the sideline of the Rose Bowl game to watch me flip the coin. I’ve tried so hard to impress my children and show them that hard work and a passion for what you do can really pay off. And y’all, I’ve gotten so many accolades over the years, but this finally impressed them. When we walked off the field, my sweet son-in-law (who’s married to Michael’s daughter), turned to me and tried to tell me how much it meant to him being a part of our family, but he got too choked up to get the words out. It was one of many moments over the course of the week that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
Y’all, 2011 is gonna have to be one helluva year to beat the start I’ve had. And I’m looking forward to see what’s in store.