Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. Because it is held on a Thursday, it feels more like a 4 day occasion, what with many companies closing on Friday as well. I also love it because it is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if your family has been in the States for one generation or for ten; it doesn’t matter what religion you follow, if any. It might be the perfect tradition if it weren’t for the the fact that the real story of how it started conveniently leaves out the part where the white Europeans repay the native’s kindness by trying to enslave or slaughter them. But if we separate the day from the origin story and simply see it as an opportunity to spend time with friends and family no matter who they might be, then it’s a pretty great tradition.
We went up to Harlem to have dinner with friends. The part of Harlem in which they live is not the best; the economic downtown has meant a rise in gang activity, and the large projects that are only a block away from the brownstone building in which our friends live harbor many young gang members. Despite this, there is a neighborly feel to the area that is most noticeable on Sundays and holidays. It is in fact my favorite thing about Harlem. When Maya was little we would sometimes go up on Sundays to attend the music service at one of the gospel churches on 130th St. Afterward we’d walk around the neighborhood and I can’t count how many times perfect strangers would say hello as they passed, or see Maya and say, “Oh, God bless her!” or tell us to have a blessed day. In our predominantly upper middle class area of the West Side that never, ever happens.
So it felt fitting that when we got out of the taxi at 113th and Lenox, our hands filled with dinner rolls and pumpkin pie – our contribution to the feast – a family getting out of a car just next to us, their arms also laden with Thanksgiving fare, looked over, smiled and said, “Hello, Happy Thanksgiving!”
And it was.