Back from a week of NYC travel. A different kind of holiday, a different kind of time spent in NYC.
We usually spend Thanksgiving with old friends in a country setting but that didn’t work for us this year and so, Julia and I were in NYC, actually Kew Gardens, Queens, with Cheshire. The time was notable because we spent more time in her apartment than we have in the past and did not do any visiting of family or friends.
Instead, we cooked for three days, preparing for a feast with gusto. We made all the usuals: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, string beans. We added a few things: roasted root veggies and beet and orange salad. We baked: pumpkin and pecan pies, almond biscotti, and these fabulous yeast biscuits which were, in fact, worth the multi-day rises in warm, cold and room temps. Whatever fun we made of the process, the biscuits were splendid enough to bake again!
Then, we gathered. A godfather, our favorite family friend, a new boyfriend, a British traveler, a few friends of friends, and the fiancé of an old school friend. All, except for the godfather and me, in their 30’s and fully in charge of their lives.
Early in the gathering, I perceived myself an outsider. The old woman at the table. Antiquated and possibly irrelevant. Surprised that I felt that way. Realizing that for a very long time, my age peers have dominated our holiday table. Our voices were loudest, our stories the most relevant. Youngsters and elders were present and their comments and stories appreciated, but we were the center, the cooks, the caregivers, those with the opinions most counted. I hadn’t quite realized how much that was true, how much we wielded the power of generation. Until I sat at a table where the torch had been passed.
These were no longer the youngsters but the adults. They own their city. They chart their lives. And they think and dream and opine. I was now the elder. After the brief surprise of my changing status, I enjoyed. Their stories relevant more to themselves than to me were interesting and full of their lives. They invited comment and lively exchange.
In large part, we were, all together, a bunch of strangers and being so, fell silent a few times. That awkward silence of conversation ending without a new trickle to follow. Even those silences were lovely to indulge in, for the moment, and be present as someone picked up some thread, asked a new question, burrowed into a new issue. We shared politics and the grief over the last weeks and a love of the arts. They are a better travelled group than most of my age peers. They were quick and witty and sometimes dead on accurate observers. They were generous listeners and invited my stories.
We cooked. We ate. We walked through the park as the light faded to night. We loaded the dishwasher and soaked some pans. We ate dessert, played Apples to Apples, opened a bottle of very strong beer—who knew there was such a thing—and felt the warmth of a day well spent.
Much later, I realized that those sitting around the table would have enjoyed tables that David and I set in our East Village flat around the time they were born. And although I often long for holiday stability and mourn that my tiny family has few recognizable traditions, I saw how my daughter was creating a community of friends and loved ones that mirrored the best of what her parents created in their circles.
And I found home in the celebration.