Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories - final part

Here is part 1 and here is part 2 and here is part 3. Now for part 4:

So we were all awake by 5:30 or so. We didn't need alarm clocks, it was better than Christmas morning and you just wanted to be up.

Some of us had instructions to wake up our parents and some of us had instructions definitely not to wake them.

We'd pull on our warmest clothes and take an elevator or a staircase and make our way outside as quickly as possible. And in the street-lit darkness we'd find all of our old friends (Dino, Elsie, etc.), and new, blown to twenty feet high outside our doorways. And we'd shuffle around until some other members of the "gang" (no, not that kind of gang) would come out as well, and then we'd go as a pack across the stretch of the American Museum of Natural History, past the workers and the clown suits and smaller floats to 81st St. (the posh block I mentioned earlier) and we'd stare in rapt wonder at the beauty of the floats. The boys would be clustered by the inevitable pirate ship, and the girls would be lost in daydreams by the princess castle. Plus, another very important thing about 81st St.: we'd find out which celebrities would be part of the parade that year, as the signs for the floats were always prominently displayed in front of each float. So we'd oooh and aaaah over the thought that Carol Burnett; or the cast of the Partridge Family; or Marcia, from The Brady Bunch; would be there in mere hours. Standing, maybe, right where we were standing.

Exploring everything between 81st and 77th took a good couple of hours, because being New Yorkers, there was always a lot of need for commentary and debate. Was it as good as last year? Was the Cinderella float looking a little shabby? Would they retire it? Was Underdog gonna hang in there even though his TV show was off the air?

By 7 or 7:30, it was time to stake your place for the parade, if you were really dedicated parade-goers. And we were. And the parents would come streaming out of the buildings with step ladders and blankets and kids would perch on the rungs (unheard of today, but back then everyone understood that the little kids would get first priority), and we settled in with thermos cups of hot cocoa or coffee. And people were actually nice and in a good mood, so you could save spaces if your Mom had to run upstairs to baste the turkey, or your dad had to run with your kid brother because he had to go.

By 9:00 anticipation was running high - the Parade Leader on his big pedestal would be screaming orders into his bullhorn every couple of minutes, and we strained our ears to catch every word because these hints would let us know what fun was coming in which order. We played clapping games, jacks on the sidewalk, and talked to the policemen who were almost as excited as we were.

The only drag about 77th St. was that the bands, etc., wouldn't do their first routines until 62nd St. or so, but that was okay by us - we'd run upstairs the second that Santa had waved us off with his prerecorded, "HO! HO! HO!" and we'd run upstairs to turn the TV to channel 4, where we'd see all the band routines and acts by the Broadway and movie stars in front of Macy's downtown. Around the time the parade was leaving 77th, the beginning of parade would just hit Herald Square.

So we'd watch our parade, minus the acts, surrounded by the love and happiness of our entire neighborhood, excitement staving off the cold, and take in the best that New York had to offer.



Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...


What lovely memories; I'm passing this series along to one of my favorite native New Yorkers :)

anno said...

I've loved this series, too. What a great Thanksgiving story!

Goofball said...

how wonderful! I wish now that I could have grown up in New York City!

Madam Crunchypants said...

What a wonderful memory to have! Thank you for sharing it.

Jan said...

Your last word said it all.... magnificent..... Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories with us.


Fourier Analyst said...

Lovely series, touching memories, and just enough detail to stir the homesickness...! (I guess I need another bite of pumpkin pie!) Thanks so much for sharing with us!

Laura McIntyre said...

What a wonderful story, im not from the US so no thankgiven memories but it makes me feel i could be there

Luisa Perkins said...

Love. It. So. Much.

painted maypole said...

in New Orleanst he kids still sit on stepladders. They create special seats to put on top of them, with wheels so you can turn them over and roll them back to your car.

loved this peek into pre parade fun! thanks!

Anonymous said...

I loved this series. I'm so glad you wrote it! It's such a neat look behind the parade. You have such a gift for writing and such unique experiences to share. If you ever make a best of Jen compilation, this series should be on it.

tripleZmom said...

That was great! Your descriptions were so warm and rich. I can't wait to take my kids to the parade in a few years.

soccer mom in denial said...

Wow. What memories. What commeraderie.

What fun.

Wholly Burble said...

oh jen, you made me want to be there--and made me feel like I was! Great story.

You had quite a great start in life to fuel the "writer" in you for eons. My mom used to tell me you can't write about life until you've lived life. And you certainly have much to share from yours.

Still say I'd like to take on New York by your side, it would be a hoot!

Betsy said...

What a beautiful childhood memory!

I'm glad this series of posts didn't end up with a Mickey-related accident. The way you described his ears sounded a bit dubious. Do you get facial ticks now as an adult when you see a Mickey silhouette?

diana murphy said...

I finally dropped in to read these. They're pure magic.

So glad that Luisa introduced us to each other.