New Year’s Eve was always special tradition in my boyhood home because it was also my parents’ wedding anniversary. Just prior to my dad being shipped off to boot camp during World War Two, those two crazy kids drove from Detroit to that romantic getaway of Napolean, Ohio, where, ostensibly, it was the equivalent of a quickie Vegas wedding venue for people who lived in the upper Midwest. Afterwards, they unromantically each went back to their separate homes and kept the story a secret until just before my dad had to leave for the service. Such were the times for post-Depression, first-generation kids of immigrants.
So each December 31st when I was a kid, we celebrated the new year and their anniversary. It was a night when costly snack food and candy that my mother never bought during the year suddenly appeared in our home. On this special night, we actually had brand name crackers such as Triscuits, Wheat Thins, etc., instead of the store-brand ones that were a staple the other 364 days. My sisters and I used to laugh at the “serving suggestion” displayed on the box with a piece of cheese or meat garnished on the top by a green olive. That’s how classy folk who bought this brand all the time eat them, you know. To this day I still look at the serving suggestions on all boxes of crackers. My dad, feeling romantic, would bring home to my mother a box of thin mints as a token of his love and affection. And to show our love and affection for them both, we kids emptied that box by no later than 8:30pm.
It was also a night when there was absolutely no bed time. The rules were suspended. We all got to stay up to watch Ben Grauer from Times Square report back to Johnny Carson on the festivities. If you switched channels you could always see Guy Lombardo lead the Royal Canadians, which I never found quite as exciting because he didn’t dress up in the same kind of duds that Doc Severenson wore. Come to think of it, no one actually did, did they? In later years, I never found Dick Clark’s shows to be as fun because it suddenly became a more elaborate, Hollywood production. Somehow even as a kid I liked the simpler, some today might say lame, New Year’s Eve programs of the sixties and early seventies.
When I moved away and went to college, New Year’s Eve meant drinking lots and lots of beer, playing loud music on the stereo, and then switching to champagne at midnight. Then sometime around 4:00am I would be hugging the toilet bowl. The following year I would forget everything and repeat. Yep, that was some education I was getting.
Through the years I’ve done everything on New Year’s from going to parties, dinner at restaurants, and quiet nights at home. The older I get, and presently on a slightly frugal retirement budget, I prefer the night at home. Restaurants, even the local neighborhood ones, all seem to want to have specials that require you to first take a small distribution from your IRA so that you can afford it.
We will stay home tonight. Gorgeous will no doubt have clients today who are sad and lovelorn, and want to ask her questions. For some, New Year’s Eve is unfortunately a gloomy night, and my heart goes out to them. We haven’t yet negotiated when she’ll stop working, but it’ll be sometime around 3:00 or 4:00pm I have decided that I want to bring in Chinese food in an amount enough to feed six families. She will no doubt have to weigh in on my excesses, and the six or seven entrees that I choose will be pared down to a manageable three. Then we’ll repeat that process as I go a little nuts on the appetizers. Hey, it’s New Year’s for cryin’ out loud. We borrowed from the library a favorite Jimmy Stewart movie — “The Shop Around The Corner.” And then just before midnight, we’ll open a bottle of Prosecco and watch Ryan Secacrest do his Dick Clark imitation.
Sitting in front of us on the coffee table will be an opened but untouched box of thin mints. Next to it will be a half-emptied roll of Tums for someone whose eyes were bigger than his stomach. But at midnight there will be a kiss and some whispers about how lucky we are. And at some point before bed time, I will whisper a happy anniversary to Mom and Dad.
Happy new year to one and all.