Nina in New York: I Am The Ghost Of Thanksgiving Day Parades Past

Nina in New York: I Am The Ghost Of Thanksgiving Day Parades Past

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

Oh, Cyber Monday. The very words are like bells in my soul. They sound like the harmonies of a thousand yuletide carolers going a-wassailing on a moonlit, snowy evening. Is there anything so romantic? So evocative of the homespun holiday cheer our grandparents enjoyed? It’s almost like I can reach out and warm my hands and bask in the cozy glow of the phrase.

J/k, j/k, everything is sad and lonely and greedy and lame. Even that most charming, time-honored tradition, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade.

It just so happened that this year, my birthday fell on Thanksgiving. I had visions of waking up, lounging over a cup of hot coffee that remains hot and doesn’t go cold while I’m tending to a toddler’s thousand needs, and then turning on the television for my daughter so that she can begin to know the pure excitement that is watching the parade as a young child.

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve paid attention. And it’s been much longer since I, myself, experienced viewing the televised floats with my impressionable, imaginative, untainted mind. Maybe I over romanticized it. Maybe I’m misremembering. But . . . feh?

Let’s even set aside the fact that the two networks airing the festivities (our own CBS and NBC) went to commercial roughly every other minute.* Of the spare moments found back at the parade, at least half that time was spent with a camera trained on the anchors’ faces as they spewed pointless commentary and tried to remain smiling, as though they weren’t freezing their tuchuses off and counting down the hours until they could go home and eat stuffing with their families. So far, at best, I’m just really, really bored. You can imagine how my one and a half year old felt about it all.

Then there were the floats. Of course, we were able to catch some of the beloved characters at weird, shaky camera angles. But then there were the weird new monsters, like this thing called a Skylander that looked like a giant, veiny eyeball with limbs, and suddenly I felt compelled to buy a new video game system. The Pillsbury Doughboy got a balloon to remind us not to forget our daily dose of mono and diglycerides this Turkey Day. Even our old friend Paddington the Bear only made his first appearance at the behest of the Weinstein Company, which is conveniently producing his movie next year. There were the live performances, geared for older kids and people who aren’t secretly terrified of the Cirque du Soleil, and some of the dancing vehicle floats, including one featuring a somewhat nightmarish version of my current nemesis, Dora the Explorer. Now I’m offended.

Is it just me, or was this the pits? I suppose if I’m being fair, the parade was always filled with figures pulled from some commercial enterprise or another. For a very long time, they’ve been characters from comic strips and television shows, like Snoopy and Spiderman and Santa Claus (just kidding!). But I think we used to do a better job at obscuring the fact that this was a celebration of consumerism. The marketing was subtle, and less desperate. The floats represented ubiquitous heroes and friends, characters who were loved across generations regardless of whether they had a new thing hitting theaters or shelves this December.

Of course, my daughter loved seeing the new Thomas the Tank Engine balloon and the dreaded live-action Dora, as well as the other inscrutable new characters she’d never seen before but suddenly loved with a fervor that could not be expressed with words. In the coming years, she’ll probably fall equally hard for the floats that come along for CSI: Thanksgiving, NBC’s latest ensemble cast answer to the unfillable hole Friends left in the Thursday lineup, and the balloon version of Katherine Heigl promoting this winter’s not-to-be-missed, feel-good rom-com. Maybe one day there will be a Cyber Monday parade featuring retail mascots like the Best Buy anthropomorphized shopping bag, Nordy the Nordstrom, uh, Octopus, the Target dog, and Flo from the Progressive commercials—all riding by deeply engrossed in their laptops and tablets. And she’ll like them, too. And who am I to make her feel badly for that? I can’t fight it. This is her world, and I’m just the increasingly cranky parent who brought her into it.

But, with all that being said . . . this isn’t over, Dora. Oh, no. This is far from over.

*This is an estimated, anecdotal figure based on my experience as a viewer. I didn’t actually time anything or count, because pbbbbt.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!