I have been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade twice in my life.
The first time was when I was quite young – perhaps 9 or 10, still small enough to push in front of the throng of onlookers for a better view of the balloons without anyone really noticing or caring. I went for the second time with my father when I was a freshman in college (I think it was far too early that year for my brother and sister to contemplate rolling out of bed on a day off, and my mother wanted to start on dinner while she remained in a nightdress so the morning turned into a little bit of a father-daughter adventure).
Much of what I remember of the first time at the parade has to do with the way my toes felt the entire time – stiff, like I had suddenly sprouted roots where my feet had been. It was a cloudless November day, the kind where the sun kisses the tip of your nose just enough to make you forget how very far away the summertime is. At one point, my brother was hoisted over someone’s shoulders (I’m quite positive they were not my father’s, as my father is just shy of 5’8″ on a good day), and my sister and I, feeling a spark of envy that our youngest sibling now had a better view, weaved through a tangled web of legs to the barriers at the edge of the street. I remember straining to see Santa as he brought up the rear of the parade in his gargantuan float, and the deafening roar of excitement as he passed.
That’s it, I remember thinking. Christmas is here. That’s how you know.
Ten years later, I stood further back from the barriers with my father and tried to focus on the parade itself rather than the arrival of the Santa float at the end. Standing with a mass of people on the streets of midtown for a special occasion such as the parade is oddly comforting, even for a person who generally hates crowds and midtown (the two often go hand in hand). People passed around steaming beverages; others distracted a baby when it started to cry. Each time a float passed with an indistinguishable (often, for good reason) celebrity at its helm, we banded together to figure out who they were. I took bunches of truly terrible photos that say more about the state of my camera at the time than anything about exuberance of the parade itself.
When Santa in his Wonderland float glided by me, the thrill was still enough to raise goosebumps on my arms. I hugged my father as the crowd surged toward the float, and the cheer was raised: “Merry Christmas!”
It’s almost here.
My plans for Thanksgiving this year require considerably less energy, though they will be no less exciting. I plan to watch the parade on the television for the first half of the day while I help my mother in the kitchen roll out crusts for quiche and peel pounds of potatoes. It will be just the five of us this year, as it was last year. There will be pecan pie, and Christmas music, and a house that sparkles with the promise of another holiday season.
I am very grateful for all of it.
But I swear to you I will still cheer when Santa’s float appears on my television screen on Thursday, still join with the crowds in that giddy welcoming of this final leg of 2013.
I hope that I am able to reflect some of that excitement through my writing over the next few weeks.
Happy Friday, everyone. And happy almost Thanksgiving.