N.Y. Journal: A New York Thanksgiving


New York City was bent on exasperation earlier this week when my boyfriend and I took a two-hour bus trip to the airport to pick up our siblings for Thanksgiving break. The roads were crowded, the bus was filled, and what should have taken one hour ended up taking two.

Then we foolishly took our siblings to a burger place right next to the street where they were inflating the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that would take place the next day. Thousands of people had come to watch, so police had blocked off the route to the burger place and we had to inch our way around the block, pressed in by throngs of strollers and with barricades right where we wanted to go.

For Thanksgiving dinner we held a small party. My dining room table was too small and I didn't have enough chairs so we all ate with our plates balanced on our laps---three on the couch that is really a futon. Someone mistakenly sat in a plate of duck that someone else had set on the futon, but the tight space wasn't as bad as it could be. The two friends we invited live with three people in a studio apartment, which means that the two of them are sharing a queen-sized bed.

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I still found myself wishing that I lived in a place that felt less cramped and transient---a physical space I could commit to for longer than a one-year lease and somewhere big enough to fit a dining room table that could seat more than four people.

But last night we all walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, which I will never get tired of doing, especially at night when you can see the Manhattan Bridge gleaming next to you and the Empire State Building glowing red and orange for Thanksgiving Day. It was late, so the big bridge was empty and we had it to ourselves. I learned that engineer John Roebling built the bridge until he slipped and fell, crushing his toes in the fall and then dying from the infection. His son Washington took up the task but soon fell ill, too, with a sickness he got from working beneath the surface on the bridge's caissons. So Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling, learned the physics and built the bridge with her invalid husband's guidance. She was the first to cross the bridge and it is dedicated to her memory. Crossing the bridge and seeing it link the Brooklyn I love to the Manhattan I also love, I thought it was a work worth dying for.

While New York feels sometimes feels so transient and cramped, there are also places like this that will outlast me, my generation and my century---just like the places outlasted the lives of the people who died to create them.


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