Practicing Praxis, 28 November 2019 – Thanksgiving Memories
Lisa’s occasional blog
It’s Thanksgiving Day morning and I’m thinking about specific memories I have about Turkey Day. For me, this day is not about huge family gatherings, or food, nor is it about preparing for the gift-giving consumerism of x-mas (or Chanukah). It’s also cannot forget the myth of Native people and the pilgrims sitting down together to happily eat, given the history of Native genocide perpetuated by us white settlers.
I’m a New Yorker, so this morning, as I watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV (in cold and snowy Minneapolis), I’m remembering the day when I was a little girl, and my dad took me to the Macy’s parade. I don’t think I was older than about five. We took the subway from Queens into Manhattan. My mom stayed home, I think, preparing our meal. She was not much of a cook, which is why I probably don’t have great family food memories.
It was FREEZING outside. We parked ourselves right near the Macy’s marquee on 34th Street where the parade traditionally ends. I remember the police barricades – back then, they were called wooden sawhorses. Stamped on them were the words: “Police Line – Do Not Cross.” I could stand up straight and still fit underneath them (As a white Jewish kid, I had no fear of police nor did I know anything about police violence directed at people of color.) We waited and waited for the parade to start, and I grew colder and colder. My dad saw how cold I was getting, so he grabbed my hand and we started to walk a couple of blocks to a Nedick’s ( for you non-New Yorkers…pronounced NEE-dix). I’m not sure if it exists anymore, but in NYC, you could always find a Nedick’s on a street corner. When we walked in, my dad bought me a HUGE cup of hot coffee! I was a big girl, right? And he had already taught me to love coffee. My little hands gripped the cup tightly, willing it to warm up my insides. Damn, it tasted so good—especially with the milk and sugar! After I sucked down the whole thing, we smiled at each other, and slowly walked back to the parade. I felt great. It was much more crowded when we got back to the parade. I pushed my way back under one of the wooden sawhorses so I could get a good view.
Note: As I’m writing this, I’ve looked up periodically at the current parade on TV. Just saw the Rockefeller Center Rockettes – all white? (What century is this?) I also glimpsed a bunch of lip-syncing performers, a mix of country and pop singers, several K-Pop groups and a couple of hip hop artists. I don’t know most of these people. I guess I’m too old. I cannot keep up with pop culture these days. At this moment, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots are gyrating non-stop on a float, looking pretty silly. There’s been a few numbers from current shows on Broadway, all abbreviated so that there can be lots of time for toy commercials interspersed on TV throughout the parade. I’ve seen a bunch of marching bands from around the U.S. They have all been high-stepping in unison in the front of Macy’s playing x-mas music, in uniforms that include huge hats, lots of tassels, some swords, and lots of thin girls in bathing suit attire. They all look enormously proud with their heads held high (as they shlep tubas and drum sets), though those girls are probably freezing their asses off. It’s a big deal to get accepted into the Macys parade. I can visibly see a few people of color sprinkled in the bands, even though I know there are many youth of color bands around the country. In the Twin Cities at local parades, these bands bring out huge crowds of community supporters. I guess they didn’t get accepted into these national parades? Usually, each school has had to raise enormous amounts of money to rent buses to get to NYC. It’s a highlight for all these kids to go to NYC, and if you don’t come from a family with money or a well-to-do community or school, it’s a stretch for a family to get their kids there.
Today, it’s very windy in NYC so all the huge balloons that this parade is famous for are being held by Macys workers very low to the ground, rather than soaring high between skyscrapers. When I was college student, I came home for Thanksgiving one year and went into Manhattan on the night before Turkey Day. I got really stoned with a friend and walked along the Upper West Side on the side streets to watch the balloons getting blown up. It’s a NYC ritual to see all this happen before the actual parade.
Well, the parade is about over, and I’m home alone. I’ve got to get ready to go over to Pat’s house, where I’ll have a turkey meal with her and the other women who live there. Susan who owns Cecilia’s Place (where Pat lives) cooks a great meal. I’m bringing an apple pie from a local bakery.
Yes, I do feel lonely. But I’m grateful to reminisce about NYC and the parade, and to remember my dad. It’s something that Pat can’t do anymore, robbed of her memories.