Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving (Not) in New York

Since my Thanksgivings usually happen down south, I cannot tell you what a typical Thanksgiving in New York is like. In South Florida, it’s 80 degrees and sunny. There are no leaves on the ground. But trust me, I’m not complaining—I’m going to the beach on Sunday.

Every Thanksgiving I’ve ever had, though, always involves a piece of New York. That’s because my family always watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC. I grew up seeing the world famous Rockettes kicking their faces in front of Macy’s before the parade arrived at Herald Square, along with the ever-popular Snoopy balloon, Garfield, Kermit, and many more. And somehow, at 23, I still haven’t tired of it. Yes, my comments during the parade have grown consistently snarkier as I’ve aged—ugh…what saccharine faux-popstar have they attached to this float now?—but it’s okay, because I’ve realized that my dad has actually been doing this all along. Yesterday he wondered where the wind was going to take Neil Diamond’s toupee as the singer lip-synched his song “Coming to America” atop the North Dakota float. “Everywhere around the world…” Diamond growled, with his usual Jewish Elvis bravado, arms reaching forth Greased Lightinin’ style. We laughed. This parade really is for all ages.

My parents are both New Yorkers by birth, though only my mom has ever gone to the parade. She sits on our big, terracotta-colored leather couch in one of her signature homemade caftans (today it’s the one patterned with ocean life), telling stories about watching it. Her eyes light up as if she was sitting there once more. Her stepfather was the head buyer for the men’s and boys’ departments at Macy’s, so she was able to go for six years, starting when she was five, and sometimes accompanied by childhood friends Janie and Amy (who I both now refer to as “Aunt”). And they had good seats, too, directly on 34th Street and Herald Square, between 6th and 7th Avenues. Not those seats where you see people on TV, though, behind all the action—those people only see the backs of everyone because the parade was being filmed on the other side. But where my mother used to sit, there were no cameras, so everyone in the parade sang for them.

I wanted nothing more than to one day go to the parade for myself, but I have to say that I don’t think I’d still want to go. Maybe if I could see it the way my mother did, but not if I was just some rando on the parade route from  77th Street and Central Park West all the way down to Herald Square, where Macy’s is located. I’d much rather sit in my living room in South Florida, every so often glancing at the still-green hedges out back, the pool twinkling in the sunlight.

The parade has been televised locally since 1946, and nationally since 1947, though the original parade was first held in 1924. This year marked the 85th Anniversary of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade. The arrival of Santa Claus at the end of the parade is said to start the holiday season. This year it seems especially true since exactly one month from Thanksgiving (on 11/24) it will be Christmas Eve (12/24). Dispersed throughout the parade are commercials about Black Friday sales, which used to start at 6am, but now start at 4am, 2am, and even 10pm the night of Thanksgiving. I wonder what the world is coming to—the thought of going anywhere near a shopping venue on Black Friday is utterly nauseating; and I’m sure as bad as it is in South Florida, it is far, far worse in New York. I don’t think there has ever been something I’ve wanted so badly that I would risk my sanity to stand in line and wait for it. Unless of course they’re handing out magazine staffwriting gigs.

Perhaps one of these days I will have a New York Thanksgiving, but I don’t really know if I want it. To me, Thanksgiving means coming home to South Florida—it’s the traveling part of it, the knowing that for a few days my life will be just a little bit different than they are normally.  While I do without a doubt cherish New York and hope our marriage will be a long and happy one, nothing can replace the feeling I get exiting the Fort Lauderdale airport to a rush of heat and the sound of Beyonce blasting from convertibles.