Today, I am thankful.
Not because I'm lucky enough to have a healthy, beautiful family, and friends who offer me place at their table for a warm holiday meal.
Well, that counts, too. But today I am thankful for what is coming.
The fourth Thursday of every November marks the beginning of the hap-happiest time of the year. When snowmen frolic merrily, glittering lights sparkle, and bells jingle all the way through the woods to Grandmother's house.
Since I was knee high to a menorah, I have been enchanted by those five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. There's a certain magic that comes only when the air has chilled and the giant red ornaments are dropped into a fountain along Sixth Avenue.
Of course, there's no better place to celebrate the season than in New York City. No, that's not exactly true. A better place would be at the Mississippi home of my two-year-old nephew, or under the sunny Charleston skies with my parents. Even sitting around a table in Maryland, surrounded by friends I've collected through the years.
But The Big Apple's not so bad.
Today, I start the season right by waking up in time to find my place on the couch to watch people freeze in the Herald Square stands during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (The parade, which I was meant to attend in person to check off of my NYC bucket list, but was too intimidated by the predicted forecast to plan a trip outside of my warm apartment.)
The morning tradition melts into the afternoon practice of stuffing my face with food someone else cooked. Though 2013 briefly threatened my 27-year-long ritual, it turns out I won't need to lunch with the unlucky Cosi employees stuck making my turkey-and-stuffing sandwich. Instead, I'll hop a train to Long Island, where I will stuff my face with food a friend and coworker cooked.
And, just as my body begins digesting the mounds of slop I devoured barely hours before, the beauty of a long weekend of relaxation, TV marathons, and — FINALLY — holiday music will set in. Three days to myself — not spent on endless store lines or shuffling through the crowds ogling Rockefeller Center's ice skating rink. But three days to commence the first “Love Actually” viewing of the year, perhaps take in an afternoon showing at the theater, or — and I can't stress the importance of this enough — lay in bed, stare through my blinds at the Chrysler building, and just breath.
Sometimes I stop myself, walking through Union Square or hanging onto the subway car railing, and remember the holidays in Frederick. Festive music blaring through my car's speakers, houses lit with flashing icicle lights and gaudy inflatable (and even more impressively working) snow globes, and the China Chef buffet on Christmas. (Life's a lot simpler in New York for a Jew during Yuletide.)
The Rockettes, the Bryant Park Holiday Market, even the giant ornament that is Times Square isn't always enough to satiate my longing for the holidays of my childhood — drives through local neighborhoods to criticize their light displays, lighting the menorah and unsuccessfully pretending we weren't actually waiting on the couch just to receive the night's gifts.
That's the real magic of the season: memories. Something to hold onto when you can't actually hold onto family.
No matter where you spend the holidays — at Mom and Dad's, with an adopted family of friends, giving back at a soup kitchen, or alone, in front of your TV, singing along to Barry Manilow concert DVDs — remember to make some memories.
And be thankful. For the true goodness in others, for the days to come, and for weeks of leftover turkey.
Happy Turkey Day!