Waiting for Superman

Growing-up-butch

Superman on Central Park West; Popeye in the distance.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. Not because of the food, but because my brother and I got to go with my dad to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We called it “The Parade.” It is huge. Hours of gigantic balloons and marching bands, platoons of police horses and clowns. It ends with Santa Claus on a sleigh, followed by the Sanitation Department crew. Besides the balloons, our favorite part was watching the marching bands and majorettes tiptoe in formation through what the police horses left behind.

My dad’s job was to keep us out of the apartment while my mother cooked. My mother was not a good cook. She did not like to cook from scratch, and struggled to put a turkey, gravy, stuffing, candied yams, cranberry sauce, and green beans on the table. It was an unpleasant obligation. It was her attempt to prove that we were a happy family.

We set out early in the morning to claim a good spot right on the barricades so no one could block our view. If we got tired we could sit on the curb. My dad packed a thermos of hot chocolate and some sandwiches. It can be blustery cold in November. We bundled up in our warmest clothes and waited for Superman and Bullwinkle.

We didn’t get much time alone with our dad. He loosened up away from my mother. She would have been undone by our exuberance and by the size of the crowd. There was too much pointing, shouting, shoving, and whooping for her. My dad kept us occupied with word games, guessing games, and trick questions. Being at the parade felt like being my dad’s youngest son. It made me happy.

Growing-up-butch

Bullwinkle and a marching band.

My brother and I would press against the barricade and crane our necks to see what was coming. We’d try to guess the next balloon before it came fully into view. We’d watch the handlers navigate the balloons down the street, amazed at how they dodged the tree limbs and the lampposts.

After the parade we’d walk through Central Park and clamber over the big rocks. We’d walk down 5th Avenue and look at the Christmas decorations. Eventually, my dad would look at his watch and decide it was time to take us home. My mother would be overwhelmed by trying to get all the food cooked, and upset because her fantasy of a happy family was ruined by our arrival. I had to go in and kiss my grandmother and great-aunt hello and excuse myself to get changed back into being a girl. Then we ate.

My mother pretended to enjoy herself, but the table conversation was formal and stilted. I stuffed myself with yams, cranberry sauce, and pie. My mother critiqued how much I was eating, despairing that I would ever look normal. My dad looked at me, imploring me to not answer. I ate fast so I could be excused from the table.

Donna and I reclaimed Thanksgiving when we moved in together. We cook for our friends. There is plenty of food and most of it is delicious. There are the usual tensions of trying to do too much at the last-minute, but we make an effort to get through it with humor. It is a leisurely meal with lively discussion. Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday.

8 thoughts on “Waiting for Superman

  1. middleagebutch

    So telling: How ironic that your arrival would ruin your mother’s fantasy of a happy family. Maybe “ironic” is not the best word. Maybe “sad” is.

    I loved how you wrote that you had to excuse yourself and “get changed back into being a girl. ”

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Donna! Hope it is a great one.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks, same to you and W.
      My mother was an unhappy person who found flaws and faults in everything and everyone (particularly me and my dad). I am grateful that I managed to escape, and that I do not view the world through her eyes.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you. We are cooking as I type. Gracie is keeping an eye on the turkey, hoping that the guests load up on the vegetables and stuffing and leave her some dark meat.

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  2. Dave Furry

    Great story Jamie Ray, thank you for sharing. I cooked the turkey this year and was utterly frustrated waiting for the dang lil red button to pop, finally gave up and took the bird’s temp, all is good 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The secret is a meat thermometer. About 2/3 through the approximate cooking time, I start taking the temperature every 20 minutes (each time I baste the sucker). When it reads 180F, I take the turkey out to rest. I use a recipe from Gourmet from the late 1980’s which bastes with butter and uses a butter soaked cheesecloth on top of the turkey. It is foolproof.

      The odd thing is that I stopped eating meat and fowl in 2004, after my first trip to India. But I cook a turkey because everyone else expects it and it would feel weird to invite people over for side dishes.

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