While fall feels long gone in Binghamton and the forecast threatens snow every other day, autumn is still in full bloom in West Hempstead. The trees transitioned from bare to a magnificent display of orange and yellow foliage as I traveled down New York State Route 17. When the warm aroma of pumpkin pie filled my nose as I walked in my front door I knew I was finally home for Thanksgiving.
To my 21-year-old self, Thanksgiving means I have a week off from classes, alleviating my stress right before I enter the two-week final stretch before exams. It also means home-cooked meals and my first Thanksgiving Eve in New York City. However, when I was growing up, a Thanksgiving spent in West Hempstead with family and friends was special for different reasons.
I remember sitting in my first grade class at George Washington Elementary School and tracing my hand on a piece of paper; a drawing that would miraculously turn into a perfect looking turkey with the help of some feathers and a googly-eye. As I got a little older, I participated in Thanksgiving-themed events with my Girl Scout Troop 1030. From the Father-Daughter Square Dance to holding food drives at the middle school to earn the Thanksgiving patch for our vests, we always knew how to celebrate the holiday while keeping the spirit of the season in mind.
My Thanksgiving Eve was always spent at Turkey Hop, a dance hosted by United Synagogue Youth (USY) that united Jewish teens in the Metropolitan NY (METNY) Region for a night of dancing to start the holiday season. I was always so excited to get out of school on Wednesday afternoon and get ready to see my USY friends at Turkey Hop, some who I have not seen since we spent a week together in the Berkshires at camp. Even when we were freshmen in college, we came back to Turkey Hop as alumni to catch-up on school, life and reminisce on our time in USY.
I also remember waking up early and cuddling up in my parent's bed to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. One year I even got to go into the city with my sister and grandma to watch from the streets as the floats swam through the sky above. The piercing cold kept us from making that an annual event.
Though I never actually spent the Thanksgiving meal at my home in West Hempstead, (Growing up I spent it at my grandparents house in Bayside, Queens or at our country house in the Catskills, and now I spend it with cousins in Plainview.) being home for the holidays never has to mean the holiday itself. Helping my mom cook zucchini quiches and sweet potato pies to feed 14 people always brought the tastes and smells of the Thanksgiving feast into my home.
Though all the reasons above are what make Thanksgiving special to me, it is important not to forget that Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my amazing family and friends I get to return home to each and every Thanksgiving, and my friends up at school who have turned into family during these past four years. And of course, I cannot forget to thank my DVR, since I am currently catching up on all the TV shows I missed due to a semester full of night classes.