Thanksgiving Day Memories and What I Want for the Holidays this Year
What a wonderful day, Thanksgiving Day has always been. It arrives each year, right in the middle of the week, the stores are, or at least were, closed and for most people, it’s followed by three glorious days of weekend, during which the holiday season officially begins. Oh, I know some people work the day after Thanksgiving, but those that do have either planned poorly or don’t mind because they’re making more money than on other days of the year.
It’s a day dedicated to eating and laying on the couch and watching movies and fires in the fireplace, with relatives, family and friends around that you don’t see everyday, and rarely ever see together… except on Thanksgiving. It’s the day of the year on which you are most likely to find yourself attempting to put a jigsaw puzzle together, even though you haven’t worked on a jigsaw puzzle in over a decade. A day that you’ll play Scrabble with someone who thinks “woot,” is an actual word.
And it’s the same at the house next door, and down the block or across town. On Thanksgiving Day there are few expectations of you, and you have few expectations of others… even though it’s a day on which few real demands on your time are placed, it’s also a day on which it’s assumed that you’re busy.
For whatever reason, Thanksgiving is usually a day of pretty good weather, at least to my memory anyway. In the Northeast, it’s not usually snowing quite yet, of course I’m not sure what it does in places like North Dakota, but I figure the people there are there on purpose, so they deserve whatever they get. No one since the Lewis & Clark Expedition has ended up in North Dakota by accident… or South Dakota for that matter.
Thanksgiving Day is a day of parades and football games.
The parades started during the Roaring Twenties with the Macy’s Day Parade in New York City, a tradition that continues today. It has got to be the most effective advertising buy in history, at least as far as name recognition in concerned. It’s truly amazing that an ad for a department store has become so ingrained in Americana as a holiday tradition. And not only did they make a movie about it, “Miracle on 34th Street,” but it’s a movie that plays and I watch every year and still can make me teary eyed in a couple of places.
I grew up watching The Macy’s Day Parade in Manhattan every year in person. My father would wake me up incredibly early so we could head into the city to find a place to watch the parade pass by. My father was the kind of guy that always woke up so early that if you set your alarm for 5:00 AM, you’d come downstairs to find him reading the paper at the kitchen or dining room table having already returned from having breakfast out. Somehow my mother and younger sisters were often spared this ritual of having to wake up in the freezing cold hours before dawn, but not me.
Dad would come into my room, grab my arms by the wrist, drag me out of bed and start doing jumping jacks, as he’d count… 1-2-3-4, until I’d scream, “okay, okay, I’m up, I’m up,” so he’d let me go. I’d crawl back into bed, but I knew he’d only be back if I wasn’t ready to go in 15 minutes. It’s part of the reason why, when years ago, I heard about what Lyle and Erik Menendez had done, while I certainly didn’t agree with it… I knew I’d never make it onto that jury.
Dad and I never went down to Herald Square, which is where Macy’s is located and where all the performances take place that you see on television, because that’s the most crowed place on the planet on Thanksgiving morning, and Dad’s plan was to see the parade, but avoid as much traffic and congestion as possible. My father was a very precise planner of all things throughout his life, and the parade was no exception.
I never realized it when I was really young, but as I got older I realized that my father would somehow triangulate the whole parade excursion so as to get a spot with the best views of the parade, where there were far fewer crowds up around Central Park West where the parade actually begins… and then afterwards be able to walk a few blocks to the Carnegie Deli or to the Stage for a corned beef on rye and a pickle… returning to where he had parked the car, without taking any unnecessary steps. It was a study in efficiency, and I think today it would be referred to as some sort of mental illness.
Dad knew Manhattan better than any cab driver, having worked at Bell Labs in the 1950s and early 60s, which is in Murray Hill, New Jersey. We lived in Brooklyn then, where I was born in ‘61, and if you jump on the Queens Expressway towards the Bronx and then transition to the Long Island and then to the Van Wyck… well, you end up in Murray Hill, where my father and the world’s leading scientists at that time, were literally inventing the future. He had graduated from Harvard in ’52, and while at Bell his secretary was Rose Bird, who later became Chief Justice of California’s State Supreme Court.
I suppose some people like the marching bands and seeing Santa wave to the crowd, but more than anything I wanted to see those giant balloons of my television heroes… Underdog, Popeye, Woody the Woodpecker, Smokey the Bear, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and of course Bullwinkle J. Moose, each 10 stories tall moving slowly through the air down 7th Avenue.
I’m old enough to remember Superman always standing tall with hands on hips, and then a few years later, flying horizontally through the air. And I remember Lorne Green, who was “Pa.” on Bonanza, and Betty White… I had no idea why she was there… hosting the parade, and seeing the real Captain Kirk from the Starship Enterprise waving to me in ‘68.
Some years later, my father would teach me to drive a car after watching the parade on Thanksgiving morning, in an empty shopping mall parking lot in Paramus Park, New Jersey. I couldn’t understand why he seemed so agitated as I fumbled with the shifter and hit the brakes either too hard or not hard enough… that is, until I taught my own daughter how to drive only a couple of years ago. Then… I sure got it… I understood within minutes of her taking the wheel exactly how dad felt that Thanksgiving Day.
I raised my daughter watching the Macy’s Day Parade each year too, although living in Southern California, she only saw it on television, and I’m sure she always wondered why I thought it so important that we watch it on Thanksgiving morning. In my mind’s eye, I could picture those giant balloons, 10 stories tall coming down the avenue and feel the chill of the early morning East Coast air… she, on the other hand only knew 70 degree and warmer weather, and seeing cartoon character balloons float by wasn’t anywhere near as mesmerizing to her, as it was to me as a young boy growing up with black and white television.
Football is the other Thanksgiving Day tradition that I remember, and it’s been a big part of how Americans spend the day since 1934, when the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears… the Lions lost, by the way. Since 1966, however, it’s been the Dallas Cowboys and their famous cheerleaders that most Americans watch on Thanksgiving Day. “America’s Team,” they’re called, although I was growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, so I’ve never understood why anyone would care so much about anything coming out of Dallas.
Besides, after stuffing myself with turkey and stuffing, I don’t think I ever stayed awake through an entire football game on Thanksgiving Day. If it had been up to me, I’d have changed the channel to watch the Twilight Zone marathon that used to be on, but it was never up to me… dads have absolute control of television sets on Thanksgiving Day in this country… I think it may even be a law in some states, although I’m not sure about that.
Not everyone in this country likes Thanksgiving Day, by the way.
Every year since 1970, a group of Native Americans show up at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day to stage a protest demanding that the day become a National Day of Mourning. They call our tradition, which is about the English settlers that we call the Pilgrims, having traveled to the New World, coming together with members of the Wampanoag tribe to break bread together in peace, “The Thanksgiving Myth.” They’re sort of the opposite of Holocaust deniers, if you think about it.
They claim that they’d been having feasts to celebrate the end of the harvest among other things for thousands of years before the English arrived. And that may be true, but so what if they were? They don’t have their own parade, so whatever they did for thousands of years, it didn’t stick. I could claim to have a relative who came down chimneys thousands of years ago to deliver gifts… does that make him Santa? I don’t think so.
They also claim that although the English and the Native Americans did in fact share a meal during that first multi-ethnic celebration of the harvest, the English made the natives sit at the kid’s table… and besides that, they went on to massacre members of that tribe and countless others, and so we should be mourning genocide on Thanksgiving Day.
All that may be true too… well, except the part about making the natives sit at the kid’s table… but I really think there should be some sort of statute of limitations for the mourning of genocides, and whatever happened in 1621 is outside that statute by at least 300 years. And was it those particular settlers who wiped out the Native Americans, or future genocidal maniacs, because I don’t think you can blame genocide on past or future generations or distant relatives. Genocide is a very serious charge, and just because my cousins 11 times removed we’re allegedly involved in wiping your entire race off the face of the Earth doesn’t mean you can hold whatever they did against me.
Also, the Native American stories of those times, always depict their ancestors as peaceful people who felt nothing but compassion and sympathy for the English settlers, sharing their food and food-storage technologies, and that without them, the English would have all perished that winter… and I just don’t buy that story as its been told. First of all, I’ve seen way to many John Wayne movies to believe that’s the case, and secondly, I might perish during a harsh winter even if you show me how to pack my meat and fish in salt and bury it underground. In fact. I might perish from eating meat or fish that’s been buried underground in salt.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m certain that the English were monumental asshats back then, but what would you expect when you put a few dozen up-tight English separatists across the table from a bunch of half-naked people wearing feathers and face paint who hadn’t read anything by Hobbs or Bacon… the sort that just a few years later, were willing to sell Manhattan to a couple of Dutchman accepting the equivalent of an out of state third-party check as payment? Clearly, we’re talking about savages here, that much seems clear.
And I’m sure the English wives were not at all happy about their husbands welcoming the natives to dinner, since I’m sure that one of the reasons they invited them, if not the main reason, was so that they could ogle at the Native American boobs that had to be bobbing and weaving about their dinner table. It’s no wonder they say the feast lasted for three days. I realize that’s not exactly in the history books, but knowing what a bunch of Puritans we still are in this country, I have no trouble imagining that’s what was going on back then.
If you really want to go back in time on this issue, there are quite a few who claim that the first Thanksgiving Day was held in El Paso, Texas in 1598, but there’s no way I’m switching over to tacos and fajitas with rice and beans for my Thanksgiving meal, and I don’t care what los historiadores mexicanos have to say about it.
Thanksgiving Day, I’m sorry to say, has changed for me as a result of these last few years.
While I still do like Thanksgiving Day for the memories it brings to mind, and most of all this year because it brings my daughter home from college for a few days, it also signifies the start of the holiday foreclosure season, which I’m finding more and more objectionable every year it’s allowed to go on. This is year six of the same sort of nonsense, people living on pins and needles as to whether their loans will be modified or their homes will be lost to foreclosure, and I can’t help but hate the whole thing that much more during the holidays.
Soon, Fannie Mae will no doubt once again announce that it will not be evicting people for a few weeks in December, as if that’s some sort of magnanimous gesture for which they should receive admiration and respect.
I personally don’t think they should be allowed to stop foreclosing or evicting for the holidays… if it were up to me, they’d be required by law to continue right through Christmas Eve. In fact, I’d vote yes for a law to be passed requiring Christmas Eve evictions to be televised.
Look, applying for a loan modification is largely the same nightmare as it was in 2009 or 2010, maybe not everywhere, as I’ve said Bank of America is much better than it used to be at modifying loans, but for the most part, the process still pretty much sucks across the board for its uncertainty and unintelligible nature, but also for its undisclosed process. And that we’re not doing much of anything about that after more than five years is to me… well, it’s indescribable at this point.
The president’s HAMP program, it is widely understood, has at least not succeeded in so many ways, and yet, even though we’ve still only spent a small fraction of the amount budgeted… we haven’t moved to change much of anything about it. It’s like we have some sort of national learning disability, or simply don’t care to fix what we know is broken.
The National Mortgage Settlement imposed new servicer standards, but when they aren’t followed, not much happens differently… people complain and someone reports on something, but that’s about it. And while I know that the news is reporting that foreclosures are down significantly all over the place, we’ll all soon learn that what they meant was that servicers are sending out fewer Notices of Default… but delinquencies and ultimately foreclosures haven’t changed all that much anywhere.
In California, for example, I just read that foreclosures are down by an astonishing 50 percent, which I have to admit actually caused me to laugh out loud. What could possibly be responsible for that sort of change? I know some will say it’s home values appreciating, but there’s no way that’s the case and at this point, rather than me arguing about it, I think I’d prefer to just welcome anyone who would like to bet on their view to come forward, so at least this time around when I’m proven right once again, I can pocket a few bucks.
But, hey… it’s Thanksgiving Day… a time to give thanks, right? And I will, I suppose… after all, I do have much for which to be thankful, but at the same time I’d like to propose something for this holiday season to all of those involved in foreclosure defense or avoidance…
How about if everyone who knows how to postpone a sale date, volunteers to help anyone who needs to postpone a sale date in December or at least for the first two weeks of January… in other words help postponing sale dates is FREE for the holidays. What do you say? That’s what I would love for Christmas this year, and since you haven’t bought me anything these last few years, why not do something for me this year?
If you agree and will offer to help people cancel sale dates for FREE this holiday season, write to me at Mandelman@mac.com and I’ll publish your name and contact information so people will know who you are and where to find you.
Come on… that’s one heck of a deal… free advertising on Mandelman Matters if you’ll help people postpone their sale dates in December and at least the first half of January. Do that for me, and I’ll be thankful for you today, on Thanksgiving, and throughout this upcoming holiday season.
Happy holidays everybody…