My favorite Thanksgiving happened in 2001, when I was living in New York. I’d moved there in July, got a job at Carnegie Hall, slept on a friend’s floor for a while, and then sublet an apartment across from Bloomingdale’s. It was all sort of magical. But I had no real network of friends there, no family, no boyfriend. Then 9/11 happened and everyone, the whole city it seemed, was depressed.
I was looking at a Thanksgiving eating a burrito alone in my apartment since my roommate (who wasn’t really a friend) was leaving. And then my college roommate called. She was in school at UMass. She wanted to come to the city for Thanksgiving, along with her Madonna-loving-political-planner boyfriend. And could they bring some friends?
Kim and Kyle came the night before and we walked around the town. We ended up on the Upper West Side to see the balloons. Apparently, the night before the parade, they blow up all those Macy Balloons and then corral them on one long city block. The city trees were awash in golds and reds and we wove between families dressed in bright sweaters and scarves, and we pointed and laughed at the goliath balloons, bobbing in the slight breeze.
The next morning I happily set about cooking in the tiny apartment. Cooking for me is an act of healing. It’s meditative and calming, and something I couldn’t really do when I lived in New York because I was alone and poor, and anything I wanted to cook was so fragrant that I’d annoy my roommate and everyone in the apartment complex. But on Thanksgiving, I could do what I wanted.
Kim and Kyle went to see the parade and I opened the windows while the turkey cooked. I could hear the sounds of the parade in the distance: the clash of drums, people cheering, loud and tinny sounding music, and I thought: “I am here in New York. I live here and this is happening.”
When they came back, their friends joined us. We didn’t have enough chairs so we sat on the leather couch, stools, and maybe someone was on a box. I didn’t even know half of the people there, but for that one meal, we were a family when I needed a family most in the world.
That meal reminded me of the good things in the world. The colors of red and gold, balloons, families wearing bright scarves and gloves, a warm meal cooked with love. And it also hinted at the things I didn’t think was possible then, but I would one day have: a family of my own. But this time, with enough chairs.