As a child in Roseville, Michigan in the 1960s, my mom and dad made the ringing in of the New Year a family experience. A silver tray of champagne-filled crystal glasses filled in proportion to our ages (full for the teenagers…to a smidgen for the little ones) was waiting by the door and we would be hovering around the TV waiting for the ball to drop! As tradition had it (though none of us seem to know where this tradition came from and, upon years of surveying adults, I have found very few who recall doing this archaic act) pots and pans and wooden spoons were on the ready for our celebration.
The ball would drop after the countdown in 8-10 person unison (depending on the year), all of us kids and parents would kiss the heck out of each other, throw back our swig, and then find we were smashed again the front door in a urgency to get out and bang our Revere ware on the front porch!!
It was hilarious and exhilarating; screaming banshees in winter coats and Nome-headed stocking caps, banging the crap out of my mother’s cookware! We weren’t alone. We competed with the other porches packed with kids. The post- WWII years brought prosperity in more than one way!
Eventually, the banging and whooping would wear down, my dad would hear what he thought was a gun shooting in the air, and we’d be shuffled into the warmth of the house, stripped of our pots and pans, winter coats, and any thought of more champagne.
More kisses and hugs would send us off to bed. I don’t recall having resolutions as a child. If anything I had prayers. “Dear Lord, please keep my mama and daddy happy. Don’t take them away. And watch over us so we can all be back here next year, in the same house, on the same front porch, with our copper-bottomed pots and pan, kissing, hugging, and laughing like we will always be close; always together.”
He listened, at least long enough to see us all off into the world to find our own houses, porches, and children to celebrate with. But, not a New Years Eve goes by when I don’t think of those days, of those New Year’s Eves decades ago. I can see my daddy shoveling off the porch so we wouldn’t slip, smelling of tobacco smoke and snow and hear my mother’s jovial laugh so hard to find on regular days. The rush of the cold winter’s air, the boots and caps, the excitement of champagne, our little arms holding each other close in a belief that we were really ‘one’ and nothing would ever end that feeling, and that glorious anticipation of all that life had to offer…love, romance, fame, family!
Even now, with my own little ones off on their way, my prayer hasn’t changed. We all still need and yearn for those family ties, that innate sense of belonging, and the belief that the New Year will bring great new possibilities, even if the pots and pans wait only for soup and the hands we held and tearfully let go of are far away, some unreachable. With every firecracker pop, toot of a horn, toast and kiss at midnight; we are together again. My old acquaintances cannot be forgotten, nor do I ever want them to be.