THANKGSIVING UPDATE (and a memory)
By Lou Young, CBS 2 HD News
The meal was simple, uneventful and perfect. The kids (not kids, really, both teens) didn’t want to travel and didn’t want guests and seemed relieved that we weren’t hiking into town to spend the day with friends as we have done so often in recent years. They felt like staying home, and so did we. We had plain old Thanksgiving Dinner with just the four of us. I said I’d cook and my wife is wise enough to know that meant I’d do SOME of the work this year.
We hit Fairway on Tuesday night and picked up a 10-pound fresh turkey. The store was busy, but not crowded. The customers and the employees were relaxed and unhurried; the shopping cart was full but not overflowing. After two years of seeing overt signs of economic anxiety at holiday time in the stores, it seems different this year. Perhaps it is an improving economic picture, or maybe an adjustment to “the new normal” as just “normal,” or probably a combination of both. Whatever it is people seem genuinely happier than they have been for quite some time. I know we are.
Even work was unusually pleasant on Thanksgiving Eve. I was at the airport where delays never materialized and the vein-popping outrage over security screenings simply vanished as if they’d never existed. One guy showed up in his underwear but even that seemed more amusing than confrontational. (Insert link here) The TSA agents cleared him to his gate and he got dressed before he boarded the plane, all smiles.
The actual holiday here at home was an all-day embrace of normalcy. Kids slept late and the adults started food preps. We did give the kids assignments when they woke—one handling the trash, the other setting the table. No arguments. We talked during the meal about going out to a movie afterward or driving in to Manhattan to see the store windows but collectively opted for naps and a movie at home. Sunset found us all off doing something different under the same roof: reading, watching a show, playing a video game, writing a blog. Everyone is content, I think, which is another way of saying we are all mindful of what we have and thankful for it. We said as much before beginning our meal and we mean it.
This year contrasts so sharply to the gritty anxiety of recent holidays; the uncertainty of the economic crash, coupled with my work in a suddenly unstable and historically unkind industry made for some large internal adjustments of expectation and routine. I re-read the entry below remembering a time when I started to refocus on what was really important. 2006 doesn’t seem that long ago. It wasn’t and it was.
THANKFUL: November 2006
There’s the cliché again: your blessings are right there in front of you if you take time to notice. It’s such a true thing that we have a holiday to try and force us to look around. Sometimes we need the help.
On Thanksgiving eve, I was surprised to be assigned to the balloon blow-up at the Thanksgiving Parade staging area on the Upper West Side. Earlier in my career, I used to get the job every year, but haven’t recently as management tended to move me to “harder” stories far less festive. The truth is, I missed it. When my kids were babies, my wife used to bring them to the live shot location on West 77th or 81st Streets and I’d escort them up close to the big balloons straining to fly under their weighted nets. The pre-parade blow-up started to become a holiday event in and of itself in the early 80’s, so the night-before-Thanksgiving festivities became our unofficial start of the Holiday Season.
This year, a news edge surfaced with concern about the wind and the safety restrictions that might’ve kept the helium-filled balloons grounded, so off I went. It didn’t start well. We were slated for the very top of the 5 o’clock news and didn’t leave the station until almost 3:30. To boot, I’d forgotten my NYPD Press pass in the pocket of my lighter raincoat and anticipated a nightmare of security problems getting access to the site. Since 9/11 every high-profile event is considered a terror target.
Our late arrival meant that one of our team had to park the live truck directly in front of the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West and run nearly all of our available cable to get to 81st Street. At the same time a sprinted to the 77th Street side to tape material for a report that was to air in just over an hour. That’s when the blessings began to present themselves.
The police officers at the perimeter greeted me with a “Happy Thanksgiving!” and “Good to see you back here.” No one asked for my official ID. The workers hustling in a light rain to inflate and secure the big balloons smiled, offered optimism and lots of technical detail about the mechanics of their work, the prospects of the balloons flying the next day, and the wind parameters that would govern the decision.
We ran the tape back to the truck, fired in a script, recorded the “track” or narration for the taped portion, then rushed out to 81st Street to “front” the live portion of the story.
After the 5, we then sprinted back to 77th Street in time to catch Mayor Bloomberg’s arrival, interviewed His Honor, the guys working the helium tanks, and several of the people who were watching the whole balloon process with wonder and awe. One man said he’d been coming to the event for 20 years. So had I, I told him. “I know,” he answered. People began to approach us as if seeing old friends and I realized that only some were reacting to me as a guy they’d seen on TV. Some were actually old friends.
I’d lived in that neighborhood, the Upper West Side, for two decades before moving to Westchester County. Suddenly there’s the guy from the deli, my old super from the building on 91st Street, a TV exec and his wife I socialized with years back, a neighbor, another. It was all smiles despite the deadline pressure—the new tape to feed, the new script to write and record, the next live shot yet to do.
We did our 6 o’clock report and I heard my name again from someone behind the camera on the other side of the police barricade, then “Dad!”
There, as if years hadn’t passed at all was my wife and both the kids in a setting I hadn’t seen them in since they were in strollers. My daughter is now 14, my son 10. They’d taken Metro North in to Manhattan for a look at the balloons. The police officer didn’t even blink as I moved the barricade to show them the balloons up close as I’d done a decade ago. I had to fight the impulse to hug them like a guy in one of those schmaltzy holiday movies about angels who show you your life, your past and your future. I convinced myself that the moisture on my face must’ve looked like rain.
CBS 2 HD News Reporter Lou Young
A native New Yorker, Lou Young joined CBS 2 in June 1994. He has served as a broadcast journalist in the New York market since 1981, working at both WABC-TV (1981-1990) and WNBC-TV (1990-1994). His blog, “Through A New York Eye,” is the longest-running blog on CBSNewYork.com. To send a message to Lou, click here. You can also follow Lou on Twitter.com by clicking here.