for release November 22, 2002
by Melodie Davis
The Human Side of the Big Parade in the Big Apple
My daughter got to play flute in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City last year and we were able to go see her. I was somewhat surprised to find that basically it was just like a parade in any other town, only on a much bigger scale.
Going to New York for the parade was something I had wanted to do ever since I was a child. We didn't have TV back in those days but every other year, when we spent Thanksgiving Day at our cousins' house, we spent the morning watching the parade. I dreamed of going to see it, but I never dreamed of having a child march in it.
But the best part about being there was seeing everything from a different perspective. Being there in person, the people around us added the real, human element missing on TV. Families scurried down streets to find their favorite viewing place toting chairs and blankets to sit on-which were only helpful if you managed to be in the first row or two. By the time the parade started, the rows of people standing on the streets were maybe 10-15 people deep. So it was interesting to see what the people of New York brought to the street to give them more height such as ladders, step stools or milk crates. There were fathers who brought two stepladders and boards, and set up a mini-scaffolding for kids to sit on.
We ended up with about five rows of people in front of us, so while it was hard to see, we could peek between the heads of people, and see the balloons and floats that were up high. Frankly, the view was much better from home, but from home you can't smell the chestnuts roasting on the street.
Once the parade started, it was impossible to move anywhere, people were jammed so tight next to each other. The parade is not for the very young or the very old, although two of our traveling companions were 70-year-olds with adventuresome spirits.
But where do you go to the bathroom in such a crowd if you are a middle-aged mom like me? Before the parade started, a friend and I decided we had better try and find a bathroom, since we had left our hotel about three hours before. Talking police into letting us around the barricades was an escapade in itself. I knew our best hope was finding a bathroom in a coffee shop or café. Of course signs said, "For customer use only." So we slipped into one, fully intending to buy something, but when we saw 15 people standing in line for carryout, we quietly slipped back to the bathrooms and out again. Mission accomplished, I didn't drink anything the rest of the morning.
While waiting for the parade, we talked with all the people around us, comparing notes on how many Macy's others had been to, who they were there to see, where they came from. The New York police, who were incredibly thick on the streets only two and a half months after 9/11, entertained us with their thick Brooklyn accents. One was talking to his wife on a cell phone and he had those of us nearby shout hello to her. Later on during the parade, the crowd lifted a little girl over their heads-Crocodile Dundee style-so that she could spend a few minutes on her father's shoulder watching the parade, since he had front row space as a police officer.
After standing body to body with so many people on the sidewalk for three hours, by the time our daughter's band came by, people around us knew that we were watching for our daughter. So when I spotted her, I spontaneously started yelling, "Tanya!" A bunch of people around us started a swelling chorus of "Tanya, Tanya," so that she actually heard us, looked over and smiled. (In this parade, participants were encouraged to smile, wave and be friendly.) The people around us also parted so that our youngest, shortest daughter could get to the front of the crowd for just a few minutes to watch Tanya march by and take a photo for us.
I was brimming with thankfulness-thankful for the privilege of being there, that the parade went on in spite of fears after September 11, for family and good friends accompanying us. The celebrities and entertainers floating by were interesting, but it was the niceness of people around us who made the Macy's parade very special. And while you don't have to go to New York to discover and appreciate that, it was a gift to discover it there.
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 790 words; end material = 105 words
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