Stuffing yourself on Thanksgiving: it’s all-American. I’d suggest it’s an all-American cliché. When the menu consists of butter-herb turkey (didn’t even wish it was chicken), mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and sweet potato casserole portion control is frowned upon. It couldn’t have been much more traditional or delicious. Do we stop there? It’d be entirely unAmerican! Because there is nothing more American than apple pie. Oh boy was there pie: pumpkin, peanut butter, chocolate, eggnog cheesecake, and I had to sample each one, with whipped cream on top.
The waistband of my dress was a tight when I waddled out the door. Having feasted in Queens and chosen to wear shoes that pinched my feet (they’re fabulous and new, I pray I just need to break them in), walking home was not an option. I hopped on the subway and once home promptly hopped into bed, drifting to sleep on a cloud of tryptophan.
I awoke Friday morning and felt fat. Yep, a girl cliché! Instead of whining and feeling sorry for myself, I laced up shoes that don’t pinch my feet and set out on a five mile walk. I started at 42nd Street hoping to catch a walking tour. Arriving 20 minutes late (oops), no such luck. Instead, I made my way through the sea of shoppers on 5th Avenue, soon crossing to 6th Avenue where there was more room to breath. Salvation Army bell ringers, store front windows, decorations around buildings- Christmas was coming at me from all directions. It felt odd in the perfect fall weather- a sunny 55 degrees- to still see snowflakes of all shapes and sizes. Fall gets a horendous truncation in my book. I hold on to summer until the very last moment of September 20th, a month later, it’s the day after Halloween and Starbucks is playing “Let It Snow”.
As Central Park came into view, I knew I’d come to the right place. Nature knows it’s still autumn! Brightly colored leaves against the striking blue sky, it was the perfect fall day. I know we’re all excited about Christmas, but I haven’t eaten enough butternut squash soup yet. It was glorious to just walk through the park and savor the present (meaning NOW not GIFT) season.
I was not alone in my stroll. Thousands of others were in the park taking advantage of the beautiful weather. So many people inhabit this city, stacked on top of each other, that it’s impossible to ever actually be alone. Yet New York is a notoriously lonely city. Feeling lonely but never being alone is truly a phenomenon, however oxymoronic, a New York cliché. I know enjoy alone time more than most people. I will happily go for a walk with just my thoughts for company. But on this day after Thanksgiving, seeing all the families and couples in the park, I experienced rare pangs of loneliness.
I had no headphones, no music to accompany my walk. I soon realized I’d even forgotten my cellphone- a feeling of simultaneous freedom and solitude. When was the last time you went on a walk without these distractions? I felt brave- so many of my generation are afraid of silence and their own thoughts. Not that it’s ever silent in New York. I eavesdropped on some fun conversations- a group of women discussing their figures (“You went through a really skinny phase, Justine.” “Yeah, when I was running marathons!) who confirmed the “I feel fat” post-Turkey Day cliché. A little girl whining at the park’s entrance: “I don’t want to go in there!” “Why not?” “It’s a scary forest!” That’s a true New York native. The best sounds of my walk? The crunching of leaves.
I was shocked and pleased to see boats still on the lake. This is something I meant to do all summer, and never did. For a second I thought to myself, “Go now! Get a boat all by yourself! Otherwise, chances are you’ll be waiting ’til next spring.” I didn’t do it. I can’t imagine a situation more lonely than being stranded in the middle of a body of water, struggling to maneuver a row-boat all by myself, wishing I had a man with strong arms to man my ors.
I turn into a little kid around autumn leaves. I’ll shuffle through piles that collect in the street gutters, even though it’s dangerous (you never know what could be lurking under the leaves!). I love the sound and the feeling as they scatter around my shoes. You don’t get leaves like this in California. It’s my ninth (WOW) east coast fall but I’m still making up for 18 years sans foliage. Another thing about solitary walks? There’s no one to take pictures of my back. It’s too weird to ask strangers, nor advisable to turn my back on my camera. Instead I took self portraits of my feet in the leaves. Like my polka dot tights?
I saw a lot of cute couples on my walk. I’ve been on a break from dating for almost six months in an effort to figure some things out (cliché!). Maybe it’s the holiday season, maybe it’s because I have figured a thing or two out, I want to be one of those cute couples. Have I figured enough out to not pick the wrong man for once? I’m hopeful.
The last time I went for a long walk in the park was in the spring (remember?). There are some big changes between the park in these seasons, the most surprising one was the drained model boat pond on the east side as you can see in these photos.
The most beautiful changes were obvious.
This lovely scene at the Conservatory Gardens really made me miss my family. A little girl leans on her mom as they sit on a bench admiring the pink and yellow flowers that form a circle around the fountain. The three frolicking ladies of the fountain made me think of my three best friends, who I call my sisters, all in San Francisco for the holiday. When I got home, I was greeted by text messages from each of them, sent around the time I took this photograph. There was also a picture in my inbox of our moms hanging out together. Perfect. I hadn’t thought about family on Thanksgiving, wanting to avoid that feeling of missing. This walk was the perfect time to feel those feelings. I let them simmer, wistfully smiled, and felt so thankful for my wonderfully supportive family: parents, aunts, and uncles. And sisters. Love.
I got to the top of the park and realized I should have collected leaves along my walk. Why didn’t I think about that at 59th Street!? I picked up a bright orange leaf only to discover some sort of city sludge on the bottom side of it. New York cliché #253. Collecting pictures of leaves is just fine.
I got my fall closure (I can embrace Christmas now instead of muttering it’s too early!), crunched a lot of leaves, felt lonely in a way that made me give thanks for being a human with feelings (…if that makes sense… let’s just say I’ve squashed feelings down recently and it’s no good. I want to feel- good and bad), and appreciated my family- something I don’t do enough. My Black Friday was the most colorful Friday I’ve had in some time.
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am thankful that I can share my thoughts with you. So much thanks.
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