As a child I loved watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on t.v. while Mom, or my grandmothers, or some combination of relatives cooked in the kitchen for Thanksgiving lunch. (Always lunch and always served precisely at Noon. Supper was turkey sandwiches on toasted bread with leftover sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and the last of the pumpkin pie. And, that is how it remains to this day.) The floats, the tethered and oversized character balloons navigating the narrow city street canyons with skyscraper walls, the Radio City Rockettes, the live performances of Broadway musicals, and the general festivities of the parade captured my imagination and attention. I hoped that one day I would go to New York City and watch the parade in person. The term “bucket list” hadn’t been coined in those days, but attending the parade was definitely on my bucket list.
And, also as a child, my sister and I antagonized each other. I am older than my sister, Cyndi, by exactly two and a half years. Cyndi had a Pillsbury Doughboy doll which she loved. The Doughboy was exactly like the doll on the commercials ….opaque white, soft molded plastic with royal blue painted eyes, and it giggled when you poked it in the tummy. But, I didn’t have one and in the depths of my dark and sinister six-year-old heart, I devised a plan to do away with The Doughboy. Although I was a fairly good child, the Doughboy brought out a terrible side to me, much like the poem about the girl with a curl who was good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.
I snuck a pair of scissors from the kitchen drawer and stalked boldly down the hall and into Cyndi’s room. Her beloved stuffed animals and other toys were strewn around her on the floor where she sat playing. I picked up Doughboy, held him aloft in one hand, and said to Cyndi menacingly, “I am going to kill the Doughboy!” while waving the scissors back and forth. She began crying and pleading for me not to kill him. I will! I’m going to do it! No! Please, no!
I gleefully stabbed Doughboy in the bellybutton. Pfffffftttttt. He deflated and collapsed inward on himself, and instead of the usual happy giggle, a small pitiful squeak trailed off into silence. Doughboy became limp and flimsy, much like a popped balloon. Cyndi wailed. I gloated triumphantly. My mother, hearing the commotion, came down the hall and swiftly grounded me in my room. No matter. I was a self-satisfied six-year-old assassin.
The Doughboy massacre became the stuff of family folklore. Cyndi and I joked about it over the years, and into adulthood. We even told my children about it, who enjoyed endless delight at hearing stories about their mother misbehaving. Cyndi and I each have a Pillsbury Doughboy cookie jar in our kitchen as a reminder of that darkly funny afternoon.
Then, about thirty years later, when I was a mom to newborn twins, I found a Pillsbury Doughboy on E-bay. He was the exact Doughboy who met a sad end at my elementary hands, and he was still sealed in his original packaging. After hawkishly watching the bid, I secured him. I called Cyndi to proudly tell her Doughboy was on his way to her. I had made amends. Better late than never, right?
And, then I received a curious email: (Note: Click on all images for larger, clearer view)
This Mr. Bear was quite the angry sort. And, a little mistaken on the use of “sorted” for “sordid” in the first line of his email, perhaps much like his owner, Cyndi, who never could spell worth a darn. And, the Raggedy Andy referenced as Mr. Bear’s hostage would be my favorite doll from childhood, and one which is still sentimentally dear to me. He even still plays Rock A Bye Baby when wound up by the stem in his back. I responded:
But, my reply only seemed to anger “Mr. Bear” even more…
Clearly, Mr. Bear had taken drastic measures with Andy as displayed by the photographic evidence he provided. But the photo only proved to work against him and was, in fact, the turning point in the situation.
“Mr. Bear” relented from his threats of immediate harm. The hostage negotiations bought some time.
And, as it turned out, Doughboy went on to become a big star. Bigger than anyone could imagine.
In 2010, Cyndi and I took my three children (ages 7, 7, and 5 ½) to see The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. It only took me until I was forty-two, but never mind, I was finally there! Cyndi secured our front row seating on Sixth Avenue by waking up early and staking out our spots before 6:00 a.m. She used each child’s pillow pet as a space saver (It’s a pillow! It‘s a pet! It‘s a soft seat on the sidewalk!), and fended off other squatters from overtaking our places.
Meanwhile, I woke, fed and dressed all three children before braving the crush of people who had accumulated and were now standing or sitting along and in every nook and cranny of the sidewalk. Several million people turn out for the parade and I have never seen a crowd to equal that throng. We burrowed through the crowds to Cyndi and proudly sat on the curb. The cold November air nipped at our faces, but we were warm with coats, scarves, gloves, hats, and a couple of blankets.
We heard the muffled rumble of distant thunder coming down Sixth Avenue. The marching band and drum corps signifying the start of the parade were within sight. Suddenly, all the things I had watched on t.v. were real, colorful, and loud. The character balloons were tethered by thirty to fifty people (or more) each and they were far larger in person than they seemed on t.v. As they passed overhead the sky would darken then brighten again as they went by. Clowns ran by throwing out favors, musicians came over to the crowds for high-fives, police motorcycle brigades rode by in formation, policemen on horseback patrolled the street with the performers, and floats and high school marching bands streamed by one after the other for three hours. The atmosphere was festive and the pulsing beat of drums and excitement permeated the air. We were giddy, me most of all.
And, then, we saw him. The Pillsbury Doughboy made his triumphant entrance onto Sixth Avenue. He floated over us without any remnant scar from his unfortunate stabbing.
Noah teasingly yelled, “Oh no, go back! Go back! She has scissors!” It turns out that after living in New Jersey, The Pillsbury Doughboy found fame and fortune as a balloon float in the parade. He reached greater heights than could be imagined all those years ago.
P.S. Cyndi and I very much want to be balloon handlers in the parade. Any guesses which balloon we want to walk with? But, our efforts so far to be handlers haven’t worked. If anyone out there has a connection, please let us know! I promise to leave the scissors at home!