It’s cold. Erev Thanksgiving. West 77th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, is closed off the night before tomorrow’s big parade.
I’m 14 and running in the street with Robert, Dan, Michael, Richard, and John. We are tossing someone’s balled-up mittens in an odd inventing-the-rules-as-we-go combination of football, keep-away, and tag.
I notice Rachel Kaldor who lives on West End Avenue. Our families are friends. Three-quarter length pea coat, red beret, tan leather gloves, long blond hair. Dimples, white teeth, radiant smile. Jewish, to boot. I am in love. I completely avoid her.
“Guys, guys, guys,” Dan says during a break in the game. “I want to tell you something. And I need you to not tell. I’m dating Samantha Fazzari. We’re dating for like a month now. Don’t tell my folks that is where I’m going tonight.” He wanders off towards Central Park.
Dan has been impressive since he moved here from Atlanta and tied Stuart Murray as fastest kid in the fourth grade. With Dan gone, Robert confides, “Dan and Samantha aren’t going out. Dan doesn’t have a girlfriend. He is probably going back up to his apartment.”
I’m flabbergasted. I never – NEVER – think someone, especially a friend, is being duplicitous. I’m disoriented with doubt. Is Dan lying? Robert lying? Both lying?
I don’t know what to believe.
* * *
Late last spring. The neighborhood is gathering on Tillamook Street, a few blocks from our home in the Grant Park neighborhood Portland.
The Junior Rose Festival parade will pass soon. Maybe in a half-hour or so. It’s not on a very tight schedule.
The folks from Elmer’s diner, as they do every year, are greeting us early birds with coupons and trash bags. At the end of the parade, we’ll give the bags to the sanitation workers in the cleanup crew.
It’s about 70 degrees and overcast. Our picnic blanket, a duvet cover from when we were newly married, is spread under my green camping chair. Two red chairs are on my right, should either of my two kids or their friends join me, they’ll be cozy.
Jane’s at work. Bummed she is missing the parade for the first time since we moved here six year ago.
Daughter Annie flits with two best friends between my spot and a mom’s similar setup on the other side of the street.
Son Emmett is off with his friends and $10 in his pocket. Twelve-year-old boys remind me of a troop of Jane Goodall’s chimps, wired to run with their peers.
I imagine what they’re up to.
Annie asks for some water from my canteen. I make a mental note to add this moment to my Five Moments of Gratitude journal I do before bedtime.
I wonder how much longer she will still call me “Daddy.”
Annie and her friends, almost graduates of the fourth grade, are on a blanket spread in front of me. They call out and wave excitedly as Fred Bear, a person in a bear costume wearing a red vest and straw hat – the mascot of our local Kroger supermarket – rides on the back of a 1960s’ red Imperial convertible.
I can’t tell if they are excited or feigning excitement.
Seven little ones in blue and yellow uniforms shuffle by in ragged formation behind a banner for the Cub Scouts. The crowd gives the dazed-looking boys extra shouts of encouragement.
* * *
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is passing by nine floors below. I’m on the balcony of my folks’ office in a building on Broadway and 55th Street.
Yogi and Boo-Boo Bears in a Jellystone Park on wheels drive by, waving to the thousands in the streets. The enormous Kermit the Frog balloon float catches a gust of wind. A few of the green-outfitted handlers momentarily lift from the ground.
Thriller can be heard from the lockstep Duke University marching band. The tuba players moonwalk. The sound is tight.
I call over to my sister, Sari. “Hey, Captain and Tennille are on the car coming up.”
She loves them.
* * *
A color guard of 12 kids dressed in black-and-silver from Hillsboro lead the Brown Middle School marching band: 25 flutes, 18 clarinets, 18 trumpets, two tubas, and five drums.
It takes some effort to recognize the tune: Yellow Submarine.
“Sometimes you have to love children more than you love music,” Larry once told me.
* * *
Home from college. Back on 77th Street the night before Thanksgiving. Same friends. Some grunge has been added to our preppy look. Rachel is still there. We chat. Awkwardly.
Groups of us watch the giant floats, held down by enormous netting, start to be inflated. We chat about living far from home, and how odd it is to be living among classmates from towns with populations equivalent to the number of people on our block.
We snicker at people we’ve met who say they are from New York when they’re from some burg upstate. “Poughkeepsie may be in New York, but it’s not New York.”
We marvel that so many have never been to here. The City. Manhattan.
The true New Yorker secretly believes
that people living anywhere else
have to be, in some sense, kidding.
– John Updike
* * *
Durham Middle School’s salsa group, in bright pastel shirts, pass by – 34 kids on drums, 42 cowbells – followed by Rojo The Therapy Llama, wearing a unicorn headband.
I cheer as Annie and her friend Lucy get high-fives from the police officers and firefighters marching by, asking people to clear the street as the sanitation trucks approach.