Childhood Thanksgiving memories for me are all good, filled with family and love and excitement.They basically fall into two categories the New York memories and the Connecticut memories.
The earliest memories I have when we were living on 12St was of going to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with Dad, my uncle Dick and Cousin Robin. Robert was not even a toddler as yet. The day started early with Uncle Dick and his family coming to the 12St street apartment in plenty of time for us to leave for the parade. Always bundled up to face what was usually a cold day, we would leave early morning for the Subway ride to the parade route… and, get this; Uncle Dick and Dad lugged four-foot wooden ladders over their shoulders so that Robin and I could see the parade over the heads of all those standing in front of us. Yep, walking blocks to the subway station, on the subway ride itself and then walking blocks upon blocks to get to a “good spot”, these two dads hauled old fashioned wooden ladders so that their kids could get a good view. They may have not been perfect Dads, but I think many could take a lesson from them when it comes to taking care of your family.
My memory of the parade itself is a bit of a blur. I remember the cold, of course, and the large floats and the crowds. I remember straining my neck as hard as I could to see Santa as he closed out the day; I felt if he saw me, my chances would improve of getting what I was asking of him for the “soonto be here” Christmas Day. I remember being exhausted but happy as dad dragged kid and ladder back home. This was followed by a quick change to nice clothes for Thanksgiving Dinner at AuntMildred’s apartment on Charles street.
Thanksgiving was always spent with My cousin Robin’s family, Aunt Fil and my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Santino, and this leads me into the second category of memory, the Connecticut memories.These memories are more vivid, as I was a bit older and they lasted quite a few years. Robert was obviously older as well, so he plays into these memories to a much greater degree.
After Aunt Mildred and Uncle San purchased a lovely summer home in Taconic Connecticut,Thanksgiving celebrations were moved there and it was a thrill for me. I loved the whole “holidayseason” in New York. The city became festive right after Halloween and remained so until after NewYear’s Day. Of course, the coming of colder weather, and perhaps even some snow, made the season all the more magical. We would get out of school around noon on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to start the long weekend. Even the schools added to the holiday feeling. Classrooms were decorated with Turkey’s, Pilgrims and fall leaves and teachers spent time sharing the Thanksgiving Story with their classes.
Anyway, once we were out of school it was a run home and a quick pack for the four-day weekend in Connecticut. Dad would get home from work a little early and we would drive to Charles Street to park his car and jump into Aunt Mildred’s station wagon for the three-hour drive to Taconic. Some years we would have to make a stop at the Post Office to pick up Uncle San, who could not always get out of work early, and from there the drive began. I always found myself relegated to the very rear compartment of the wagon, with bags of groceries and winter clothes as my company, but how I loved that drive. It was the anticipation that was exciting. It was always at least 10 degrees colder in the part of Connecticut we were heading too and this meant the chance of snow increased exponentially… and how I wanted it to snow! Snow made the weekend even more magical.
I enjoyed listening to the conversation of the adults as we made our way up the West Side Highway and unto the Taconic State Parkway. I don’t recall what they were speaking about, but hearing the happiness in their voices made me feel safe and good. Seeing Robert in the seat in front of me, usually sitting on Moms lap made me glad to be alive in this moment.
When we got to our destination, there was always a ritual: Kids help the adults unpack and then help Aunt Mildred getting all the groceries put away. Then, and only then, could we start our fun. I remember the first thing I would do. Aunt Mildred had a pretty sophisticated thermometer on the wall in her Den (my favorite room in the whole house). It would show clearly the chance of precipitation and the likelihood of snow. It was there I headed first. If it showed snow, my spirits would damn near explode. I dragged Mom and Robert to the device and excitedly showed them that, yes! we were going to get snow.
Sometimes Robin and his family arrived first, other times they arrived after us, but by the time things began to settle down, it was dark. Adults would gather in the den for the pre-dinner cocktail, usually a Manhattan, straight up mixed by Uncle San. I loved watching their “toast”. Uncle San always said a few words…a combination prayer and thanks that we were all together, then, “Salud!. The kids were not left out. We usually got a glass of coke or ginger ale with a cherry in it to make us part of the ritual. I’m not sure I ever grew tired of a coke or ginger ale with a cherry in it, because, besides the cherry, they are filled with memories of that first night in the den.
I could go on and on with memories of these wonderful weekends, but, in respect of time, I’ll close with this one.
I don’t remember what year it was, but when we had finished our “getting there” chores and I checked the thermometer, it declared SNOW. Not a possibility of snow, but snow. It wasn’t long after I checked it that it began to fall. It was simply beautiful. Every one ran to the gorgeous picture window in the hallway to gaze out upon the large flakes falling rapidly to the ground. I remember the traditional Manhattan toast and then the memory goes a bit hazy. I don’t why my next memory was of me, alone in the house looking out of that picture window at the expansive front yard. The snow was already about six inches deep and there was the family…engaged in an old-fashioned snow ball fight. Why I wasn’t with them, I can’t recall, but it was not a bad thing. There was dad, acting goofy,which he rarely did, throwing poorly made snow balls at uncle Dick. He was laughing. There was Mom, shielding Robert in her coat from the snowball onslaught, running and firing back whenever she could without exposing Robert to a direct hit. She was laughing. There was Aunt Fil, always methodical, making sure her snow balls were well packed before launching. She was laughing.
… and I remember smiling as a took in this beautiful scene. The picture window made me feel as though I were watching my family on a large, perfectly clear movie screen. I wanted nothing to ever change, I didn’t want that moment to end. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t outside with them, I needed this indelible image for the rest of my life, and only by watching, could it be.
Whatever the reason, If I’m anywhere near a thermometer that has a SNOW setting on it this Thanksgiving…. I’m running to the first window I can find………and, perhaps, just for a moment………