Thanksgiving On The Fifth Floor

Taking a look back at how I spent most of my Turkey Days as a visitor, in someone else’s home, with someone else’s family, on another floor, on Thanksgiving.


Celebrating Thanksgiving or any holiday for that matter in an apartment building is far different from a traditional single family home. 

For one thing, the hallways are filled with seven, or eight, or ten, or even more aromas, from Apt. A-48 with their love of cabbage, Apt. A-40 and the smell of potatoes, A-43, giving off a smoky smell from whatever foods they were burning, to A-42 and their unmistakable smell of pumpkin pie emanating from under the door and into the hallway.

We lived in Apt. A-41, sandwiched right between all of the other units churning out Thanksgiving goodness; our home was always quiet on Thanksgiving morning, with just the smell of cigarettes and the sounds of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Around noon, we would get ourselves together, take the one flight journey up the elevator, mostly because my parents were too lazy to take the stairs and arrive at Apt. A-53 on the fifth floor, our home away from home for almost every major holiday of my childhood.

It’s a weird thing in hindsight spending every major holiday at someone else’s home, with someone else’s family.  Partaking in their traditions, meeting their friends, gazing at their Christmas Tree, watching their kids open presents and of course, watching someone else’s Mom slave away in the kitchen for hours to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for the ages.

The O’Malley household was a mixture of Irish and Jewish, but one thing was for sure, they knew how to create a memorable holiday experience, not only putting out insanely good food that made you literally count the months, weeks, days, hours and seconds until it was served, but also making us feel as if we were an extension of the family, however black sheepish we may have seemed.

If their kids were playing Nintendo, I played Nintendo.  If the adults were playing Trivial Pursuit, my parents played as well.  These activities, seemingly normal to probably most of you, were in fact a departure and a kind of respite from the daily grind and borderline drudgery of my family’s every day life.

And so the years went by, each Thanksgiving with the O’Malley’s on the fifth floor, taking that 30 second elevator ride to a place where we were always the visitors and never the home team.  Where we were always the guests and never the hosts.  A place where we had to ring a door bell, before we could sit down to eat.

That was my childhood experience of Thanksgiving and now that I am an adult, many thoughts and feelings about the holiday, both past and present, come to the surface.

One thought is that I’m thankful that I even had a place to go and that my parents were not so prideful as to not want to partake each year in someone else’s celebration, that they would simply not go and we would be left to our own devices in our otherwise dark and lonely apartment.

I’m sad for the kids and families out there who cannot afford to do anything for Thanksgiving and for them, it is simply another Thursday, painfully put on display by the millions of Americans who do have a place to go, who can afford to take a trip and who are surrounded by a rich and vibrant family environment.

If my Thanksgivings on the fifth floor have taught me anything, it’s that having the opportunity to come together with other people to have a meal is a very precious thing. 

Whether they’re your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, or even strangers that you just met.

My experience has left me with the belief that people, like the O’Malleys, people, are more important than place, when it comes to Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving from your Bronxville-Eastchester Patch Editor!

Alan Silverstein November 24, 2011 at 03:48 PM
great article Josh....I hope you remember us...Julie and Alan Silverstein
Josh Semendoff November 24, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Hey Alan, are you kidding, the two of you are part of the Thanksgiving lore!
alan silverstein November 24, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Yes we are...going there now......alan


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