Monday, November 26, 2012

No Rain on Our Parade

When people hear I'm from New York City, they typically ask me one of two holiday-season questions ...

"Have you ever been down to Times Square on New Year's Eve?"


"Do you go to the Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving?"

The answers, respectively, are "No frrrkin' way!" and "Abso-frrrkin'-lutely!"

I grew up on Manhattan's Upper Westside, a mere ten-minute hop, skip and a jump from the beginning of the parade's route on Central Park West. We went each year as a family, or if my mother had too much dinner preparation to tend to, my father took us. One year, we left the house later than usual and the parade had already passed. Not to worry, we jumped on a downtown subway and arrived at Herald Square in time to watch the whole thing.

When I was in high school, I was a member of the prestigious First All Children's Theatre Company. In 1978, we were invited to participate in the parade. What a thrill! Although several of the younger children marched (one lucky young man got to sit on the giant Schaper Cootie Bug), most of us were down at Macy's, where we did a musical number from The Incredible Feeling Show by avant-garde dramatist Elizabeth Swados. Dressing rooms were set up between cosmetics counters on the department store's first floor. Ours were right next to the cast of Broadway's Peter Pan, including then star Sandy Duncan. I think we had to be there at 4:00 am — not exactly prime-time for a bunch of teenagers. But, what a wonderful memory!

Throughout college and after I moved to Boston to start my career, I always returned to New York for Thanksgiving and always, always attended the parade. There were years when it was just my mother and me, my siblings either sleeping in after an evening working or away on some adventure. I did manage to drag my husband along a handful of times, but he prefers to watch the parade from the comfort of a couch, coffee in hand. After all these years, the only person I can really count on is ... my teen daughter.

Imagine that.

This year, I confess that I expected a little push back. Getting up early (unless it's to drive to an equestrian event) is not exactly her forte. But, she was perfectly amenable; in fact, she expected and — dare I say — even looked forward to it! 

The weather was gorgeous: sunny and mild for the time of year. We walked up to Central Park and then fought the crowd for a couple of square feet of prime parade real estate. Although we had a bit of a wait, we didn't mind. The people-watching was pretty epic and we got to eavesdrop on some very entertaining conversations. (Two aspiring actors from Ohio debated whether a mutual friend was "gay gay" or "bi gay" and whether it was his mother's fault because she bought him a Louis Vuitton bag. And, no. I'm not kidding.)

The parade began, as these parades often do, with clowns and roller skaters and balloons and a team of New York's finest, who seemed to be in a particularly good mood despite their holiday detail.

With my daughter nearly my height now, I didn't have to hold her up or worry about whether she could see. We could both relax and enjoy. And, really, there was something for each of us. It was as though the powers that be at the self-proclaimed "World's Largest Department Store," planned their parade to appeal to trendy teens and their not-exactly-with-it-anymore moms. In fact, whenever I wondered, "Who is that?" she knew the answer. And vice versa.

So, my daughter was pleased to see The Wanted, Flo Rida, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Jennette McCurdy. And, I was happy to wave to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chris Isaak, Jimmy Fallon and Whoopi Goldberg. We were both thrilled to see Gabby Douglas and the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team. And, I will always have a soft spot for the cast and creatures of "Sesame Street."

By the time Santa Claus arrived (and, if anyone from Macy's is reading this, let me just say "Best. Santa. Ever!"), we were a little tired and ready to head back to my mother's cozy apartment and the all-day feasting that awaited there. As we recapped the highlights together, I thought about how valuable family traditions are, and — despite some fairly typical teenage ups and downs — how much I enjoy my daughter's company sometimes. She wouldn't let me take any pictures this year, but that doesn't mean they weren't there in my mind.

I thought of them later, as thanks worth giving.

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