Why I Love “Miracle on 34th St.”

It’s that time of year again – time to watch “Miracle on 34th St.”  I love this movie, despite Maureen O’Hara’s acting. OK, that wasn’t really very nice. So on to the good stuff. I really do love this movie. Part of it is Natalie Wood‘s performance. She was about eight years old when she made this film, and she was absolutely the star. Her facial expressions are priceless. So there’s that. But that’s not the big thing for me. I mean, it could be, but there’s something even more special for me.

“Miracle on 34th St.” begins with Kris Kringle walking over to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It starts by the Museum of Natural History between 77th and 81st Streets and Central Park West and Columbus Ave. in Manhattan.  My old stomping grounds. My grandparents used to live on W. 78th St. just a few blocks from there. I could walk to the museum.  And my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Lottie, lived on W. 66th and Central Park West – in the building where “Ghost Busters” was filmed.  Every year, we’d all (that is, my family, and Aunt Lottie’s children and grandchildren) go to Aunt Lottie’s to watch the parade from her second-floor window looking out on Central Park West.

The window looking out on the parade was in Aunt Lottie’s den. We’d all pop up, kneeling on the banquette beneath the window, and peer out.  Then we’d occasionally run into the living room to see the parade on t.v. – because the bands and balloons we had seen just a short while before would then be performing in front of Macy’s on 34th St.

Sometimes, we’d ask our parents to take us down to the street. Down there, vendors would sell giant balloons – tall balloons in wonderful colors. And of course, the clowns would run up to people on the street and shake hands.

From the window, we had a great close-up view of the balloons. The second floor is about the perfect height for that. They’d be so close, but we could still see everything.  I loved the balloons.

So there we were. We’d be running back and forth, and sometimes up and down. It didn’t matter who was hosting Thanksgiving dinner, we always started at Aunt Lottie’s.

Anyway, every year, when I watch “Miracle on 34th St.” it reminds me of how it was when I was little. The movie brings this back for me in a way that the t.v. broadcast of the parade really doesn’t.  Al Roker wasn’t doing the t.v. broadcasts when I was little, and the parade wasn’t, in my memory, constantly interrupted by commercials.

Then of course, there’s the whole thing with Santa being at Macy’s. This is how I remember it in my childhood, as well. I know I’m a nice Jewish girl. Well, a nice Jewish girl studying for the Unitarian Universalist ministry. But I grew up in New York City with a Santa on every street corner, so I always believed. I knew that those sidewalk Santas were really Santa’s helpers. They were collecting money for VOA, and that was fine. But the REAL Santa Claus was at Macy’s. He brought up the end of the parade (which was how we knew it was time to go to wherever we were going for Thanksgiving dinner), and then he’d be at Macy’s for a while.

I do love the movie. It’s full of all sorts of sweet things. I love that the DA’s son testifies for the Defense. I love that the Post Office ultimately determines that Kris Kringle is, indeed, the real Santa Claus. But for me, it’s all about re-visiting my own childhood in New York City. I can practically smell the roasting chestnuts on the street.

It’s the fifth night of Chanukah. It’s the first Sunday of Advent. May all your lights shine. May your days be full of miracles – on every street. May you revel in the expectations.

That’s my mite. It’s all I’ve got.

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