With luggage in hand, I always walk by or through Washington Square Park on Thanksgiving day as I journey to New England to visit my family. On a bleak, gray morning, I find it particularly saddening, as invariably I see people alone in a deserted space, knowing that for many, this will be how they spend their day.
When I was much younger, many of us espoused how a holiday or birthday was "just another day" and really meant nothing. Foolish to me now - on the occasions I did have to spend a holiday away from family, I worked hard to dismiss my sadness - who can really swim against a tide of a major national holiday that is defined by the family meal and is so emotionally charged with signs and reminders at every turn? Not I.
I have featured the classic New York City celebratory events on this website in the past - you can see them here: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the inflation ritual before the night of the parade (here and here), natural ornamentation found around the city and displays of abundant foods. Retail promotions are everywhere to be seen, here in the city as elsewhere. Today, Macy's opened at 4AM for what is now being called Black Thursday. The tree at Rockefeller Center has been installed, ready for the annual lighting ceremony. This is the New York City we see in the media and the one that visitors expect.
But not everyone is enjoying the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving family dinner.
I left my home this morning at 6:50 AM with camera in hand to see and show a different side.
A food vendor was already set up with his cart readied for the day. There were partially eaten containers of food and discarded clothing scattered about. Typical early morning sights before the park cleanup staff completes their rounds. I met Yusef, who was resting his feet, sitting alone on a park bench. He asked me about the time of the parade.
I gave him my card. He noticed and identified the red-tailed hawk. I told him the story of how I came to get that photo. He was familiar with the famed hawks on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. He asked what I was doing today and I told him of my family and that I would be visiting in Connecticut.
When I asked about his family, he told me he has only met his father twice and his mother was shot by her boyfriend some years ago. I did not ask what he was doing for Thanksgiving, and I was not going to insult him by telling him not to worry, it was just another day. Because it's not...
Note: Today, along with the good fortune I have had in my life, I would also like to thank all readers of this blog for your patronage and uplifting comments. Happy Thanksgiving to all.