Hooray for the Macy’s Parade

This year, for the first time in a long time, I had no Thanksgiving responsibilities except to show up at the appointed time at a friend’s house bearing the dinner contribution she’d requested: a loaf of sliced and buttered sourdough bread, wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and ready to slide into the warming oven. Before anyone asks if I’ll share my sourdough starter, something I’ve never possessed and almost certainly never will, I’ll confess that I bought the loaf at Meg’s Bread, located at 52 S. Cedar Avenue right across the street from Ralph’s Donuts. They even sliced it for me.

So what did I do with all that free time on Thanksgiving morning? I brewed a full pot of coffee and settled in to watch the Macy’s parade.

I saw the iconic Thanksgiving Day Parade in person once, in 1962 when I was not quite eight years old. My daddy was on the management path with J.C. Penney and had been transferred to New York to learn the ins and outs of being a “buyer.” I could write a million stories about what it was like for a family from Arkansas to be exiled to the north, stories that would include my mother crying pretty much every day, but space limitations prohibit my doing that in this column. What I will say is that Daddy’s job with Penney’s came with the perk of being invited to watch the Macy’s parade from a swanky apartment in the heart of the city. The apartment had a wide window seat from which my brother and I had a bird’s eye view of the festivities.

It was not unlike the vantage point of young Susan Walker, the protagonist in the beloved 1947 Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street.” Susan’s mother Doris works for Macy’s and has major parade responsibilities. The plot trigger happens early in the movie, when the man who was to play Santa shows up drunk and the real Kris Kringle comes to the rescue.

If you’ve seen the movie, you no doubt know the rest of the story.

As I watched the 2023 Thanksgiving Day Parade on my almost-too-big flat-screen color TV, I couldn’t help but compare it to the blurry black-and-white parade in the movie. (The parade footage in “Miracle” was from the 1946 Macy’s parade. The actual parade wasn’t televised live until 1948.)  Doris Walker, dressed against the cold in a wide-brimmed hat and full-length coat with gigantic padded shoulders, was nowhere to be found this year. Instead, against the backdrop of New York City’s fading autumn splendor, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb hosted the three-and-a-half hour extravaganza. It featured elaborate floats. Amazing balloons, including a brand-new Snoopy and Woodstock. Marching bands. Cheerleaders. Gymnasts. Jugglers, most impressively one who lay on his back and twirled a table on one foot. NYPD motorcycle cops, riding in perfect formation.

There was a videotaped message of cheer from President and Mrs. Biden. There were musical performances by Jon Batiste and Chicago and Cher and some other act I’d never heard of. The Rockettes danced. The Harlem Globetrotter dribbled and passed and spun basketballs on the tips of their fingers. Actors performed snippets from Broadway shows.

It was fabulous.

And I’ll wager that most of us watching on TV have no earthly idea what goes into orchestrating such an event. Or keeping it safe. Bad weather, especially heavy winds, has been a worry ever since the first Macy’s parade started down the street almost a hundred years ago. Perhaps, over the years, there’s even been a besotted Santa or two. But back in the good old days, parade officials didn’t have to give much thought to terrorists or armed-and-dangerous crazy people.

This year, they pulled it off once again. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful, too, for Meg’s Bread. The sourdough loaf I buttered and took to Thanksgiving dinner was definitely a hit.

(December 2, 2023)