Thanksgiving! My number one, all time favorite day of the year! Ever since I was just a little kid growing up on Duxbury Road in Great Neck, New York, I’d wait for this day, the third Thursday in November, with anticipation and joy. I remember my mother getting ready for the holiday—picking up a turkey at the local supermarket, filling the refrigerator with the special foods she was planning to serve, and then making the holiday dinner with all of the fixings—that giant turkey, gravy, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, broccoli, marshmallow covered yams, and of course, pumpkin pie. My siblings and I would always get up early on that very special day to the smells of a feast emanating from the kitchen as my mother and sometimes my grandmother prepared the meal. We’d race around the house like all kids do, in and out of the kitchen, nibbling on the various dishes as they came out of the oven, anticipating the savory moment the meal would be served.
My father, back then, was a television director and every year from the time I was really small, he would direct and produce the CBS News coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. He was always gone those mornings when I woke up, hunkered down in his remote truck on Central Park West checking his cameras, working with his on air talent, and then selecting his shots and televising the parade for all of America to see. Sometimes I’d get lucky, and I’d go with him to watch the parade form the front row of the grandstands he’d construct for his audience—and boy, was that ever a thrill—but most of the time I’d watch the parade at home in his office on the second floor of our house, marveling at the spectacular floats, at the marching bands, at Big Bird, Snoopy, and the other cartoon character balloons, while I inhaled the wonderful smells from the kitchen, relishing with anticipation the grand meal my mother was preparing. My dad never got home from his parade much before two or three in the afternoon and then would promptly climb into bed to take a long nap. So my brother and sister and I would have to wait for Thanksgiving dinner until he woke up, occupying ourselves watching TV—I loved all those football games and still do—playing board games, and making mischief. Then, at about five o’clock, we’d all gather around the dining room table as my mother served the meal she’d been preparing all day, and we’d gorge ourselves on the delicacies, celebrating the holiday, being together as a family.
It’s no different today than it was back then. My wife spends days, sometimes weeks getting ready for the holiday, pulling recipes from an old, beat-up edition of Gourmet Magazine that she’s used for the past thirty years, then buying all the food at the best stores here in the Berkshires of Massachusetts where we live, filling our refrigerator, setting a grand table, and making an unbelievable meal. Some years my two boys, my daughter-in-law, and my adorable grandchildren feast along with us. Some years my boys are off celebrating the holiday on their own, or at their in-laws, or with the families of their girlfriends. On those years we miss them but still have a memorable day. We’ll celebrate with our neighbors, hoisting a few drinks, eating our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and spending time with good friends.
For me, I still watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, papa’s parade as I like to call it—it’s on in my office right now as I’m writing this blog—savoring the amazing smells from the kitchen as my wife prepares our special meal, taking in an afternoon football game, and then feasting to my heart’s content. And while my life changes from year to year as I grow older, I still look forward to Thanksgiving with the same deep sense of anticipation—remembering my parents and the years we celebrated when I was a kid, remembering my own kids when they were just kids, and now watching my grandchildren as they begin to make their own set of wonderful memories.
It’s a very special day.
My favorite day of the year.