“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart” – Psalm 86:12

In the United States there are 19 special annual occasions only ten of which are Federal holidays.  Last Thursday was a Federal holiday “Thanksgiving Day” when families and friends gather to give thanks for the year’s blessings. In many homes, a big dinner centred on roast turkey is served.

My son Kevin, who is an Emirates Airlines Captain, lives in Dubai and advised me that he would be traveling to New York to shop for his family whenever his annual leave was confirmed.  His younger brother Bevan, who manages his own New Jersey registered company Marketplace Excellence, is based in the NY area.  They invited me to join them since we had not had an exclusively boys’ lime since 1980, when they were 11 and 8 years old, and I acquiesced.

In 1980, I took them to Lords cricket ground to see the West Indies play England in the 2nd test, June 19-24. The memorable events were: (1) on the first day there was a cold breeze blowing through the stands and also it became so overcast that an appeal for light was upheld before lunch; (2) we witnessed a magnificent 223 run second wicket partnership between Desmond Haynes (184) and Vivian Richards (145) in the West Indies first innings;  and (3) we saw Vivian Richards expertly caress the bowling of left arm spin bowler Derek Underwood for six fours in an over, three on the leg-side and three on the off-side, starting at fine leg and working his way systematically around the ground finishing up at third man.

A highlight of Thanksgiving Day, before one gets tucked into the turkey feast, is the

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which kicks off the holidays with unparalleled pomp and pageantry. The scale of the Parade was immense: more than 3.5 million people viewed the parade live along the parade route, and more than 50 million viewers tuned in to the television broadcast. We watched it on TV. Spectators watched in awe as 10,000 participants — including the nation’s best marching bands, performance groups, giant helium balloons, breath taking floats and the one-and-only Santa Claus passed before their eyes.

Black Friday is the name given to the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at midnight on Thursday night or earlier, and offer deeply discounted promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season. On the way to our turkey feast with family on Thursday afternoon, for the sake of curiosity, we passed by a shopping plaza around 4.30 pm and observed that a queue of three, in pretty nippy weather, had already been formed outside a popular department store. When we enquired as to the opening hour, we were told 9pm.

The boys grabbed a few hours’ sleep and were back on the road at 1.30am to tackle their long shopping lists. They empathised with me when I decided to opt out of this open-ended shopping experience.  It was justified on the grounds that they did not return until 8 hours later with some shopping still to be done.

I was scheduled to leave on Sunday 19th for NY by American Airlines, but after more than an hour’s wait in the plane, it was decided that due to a faulty door the aircraft had to be taken out of service. All passengers had to spend the night in Barbados and we left promptly at the rescheduled time at 7am on Monday. I was very impressed on arrival in NY when I discovered that American Airlines, without any prompting, sent me an email apologising for the delay and credited my advantage miles account with a generous number of bonus points as a token compensation for any inconvenience.

I must say that on arrival in NY, everything worked very smoothly and there was little evidence of damage done by hurricane Sandy a few weeks before. But of course, I did not visit Staten Island where it was said that there was more damage than they have ever seen before on Staten Island.

The diurnal temperature range was between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit but one was dressed appropriately for the weather. It was dry, crisp and very pleasant, somewhat in contrast with the very hot and sometimes wet Barbados summer weather.

Bevan was the perfect host driving us around to witness many different types of shopping experience. He has certainly mastered the techniques of survival in NYC after 20 years. Kevin treated me to a magnificent performance of the Disney Broadway musical Lion King, after which we took the bus back to our residence in New Jersey. The drive was not that long, standing room only, but the wait for the bus tested one’s patience. We paused for a moment to reflect on the delays that there must have been when the trains were not running shortly after the advent of hurricane Sandy.

It was a wonderful week of bonding, amidst pockets of email management and work assignments. The week concluded with an exclusive day of project work on Saturday. I returned early on Sunday morning fully refreshed and energised to face the on-going task of business consulting.  We boys reflected on and breathed into a state of all-encompassing gratitude. As long as we have breath, we have life. As long as we have life, we are grateful.