When I was growing up, New Year’s Day was sort of a big deal in my family. New Year’s Eve partying wasn’t all that important beyond the obligatory junk food, Guy Lomardo TV specials, and noisemakers at midnight, but January 1 was always filled with Family Traditions.
Yes, I capitalize Family Traditions when it comes to my family. That’s just the kind of people we were. Still are, in some instances.
My sisters and I always spent the holiday with the Amoeba (our nickname for Dad’s four unmarried sisters). They’d begin New Year’s Day by dragging out The List (yup, that one’s capitalized too), which began with the kind of normal trivia that usually gets recorded on this type of list: average price of a loaf of bread or gallon of gas, celebrities who died the preceding year, the number one song according to Casey Kasem, and so on.
But then my family had to take things to the next level by jotting down questions to be answered the following year.
Did Vernabelle finish her quilt? Always yes.
Did the Aunts finally get their kitchen remodeled? Always no.
Is Smudge the cat still alive? Yes, remarkably, for 18 years.
At some point, the questions veered off into more personal territory. We each had our own section, and mine was always the same:
Did Amy ever have a growth spurt? No, still hoping for 5’5″.
Did Amy lose weight? Yes, the same ten pounds I lose and gain every year
Did Amy get a boyfriend? No. Always no.
Did Amy finally finish her novel? Yes! Finally!
After the list was completed for the year, we’d all bundle up and head out to Milham Park to feed the ducks and geese, regardless of the weather. Our boots would crunch through the snow as we hiked along the trails to our favorite stone bridge in the center of the park, lugging bags full of cheap, stale generic bread to feed the most aggressive flock of birds known to man.
We’d end up running and shrieking in terror, flinging handfuls of bread behind us as they chased us up and over the bridge while the Aunts stayed safely out of range and laughed their asses off. I found out later they used to place bets on how long it would be before I got treed on top of the bike rack. Because it happened every year. Every year.
I’m starting to believe those ladies had a bit of a sadistic streak.
When we went back as adults with our own children, I ended up laughing, too, when my niece was bitten by a goose. No, I didn’t laugh at her pain; seriously, I’m not that twisted. I laughed at the panicked phone conversation that followed between my sister and her pediatrician.
Did it break the skin? No
Can she move the finger? Yes
Call me back if she sprouts feathers or starts quacking. Otherwise, she’ll be just fine.
In case anyone is worried about my niece, she is now a lovely and well-adjusted twenty-something young woman who has never, to the best of my knowledge, sprouted a single feather or quacked at inappropriate moments.
Although, are there really appropriate moments for quacking?
At any rate, after our annual duck apocolypse, we’d return to the Aunts’ house to warm up with big bowls of Aunt Ida’s oyster stew, which was basically hot milk with butter, pepper, and a handful of boogery-textured oysters. It was positively revolting, and the only way to choke it down was by adding copious amounts of soggy oyster crackers to each bowl and praying to God that each snotty, lumpy swallow contained more cracker than oyster.
Nobody actually liked Aunt Ida’s Booger Soup. We ate it because the Aunts were a superstitious lot who firmly believed that eating seafood on New Year’s Day guaranteed good luck in the coming year. Personally, I think they just wanted to start the year off in the worst way possible so things could only get better from that point on. Either that, or it was all part of the whole sadistic streak thing they had going on.
The only other time I have eaten oysters was at the after-party following my first hair show, when swallowing a half-dozen raw oysters seemed like a good idea after the fifth or sixth gin and tonic.
For the record, it was not a good idea.
Neither were the gin and tonics, now that I think about it.
Did you know that raw oysters taste and feel exactly the same going down as they do coming back up? Good to know, right?
And going down or coming up, they still don’t taste as bad as Aunt Ia’s Booger Soup.
New Year’s is a lot different for me these days. I barely managed to stay up until midnight last night, but Rooster and I celebrated with sparkling cider in plastic champagne flutes, followed by a couple of thick, chewy peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches.
Don’t judge. Trust me, they were better than Booger Soup.
We live an hour away from Milham Park now, so we we won’t be heading out to feed the ducks any time soon. If I want to be pursued by noisy, aggressive creatures in search of food, I’ll just go back to work. I am a lunchlady, after all. Seriously, not even a flock of Milham Park birds can be as intimidating as a horde of hungry teenagers on Nacho Day.
And even though we no longer draw up our version of The List, I can’t help but compile a mental list of questions and answers.
Are we all still alive and healthy? So far, so good.
Are we all happy? Meh. Getting there.
Did the dog ever stop pooping in the corner? I strongly doubt it.
Did we finish the renovations on the house? Please, Lord.
Did Amy get a boyfriend? Let’s not ask stupid questions, mkay?
Apparently, some traditions die hard.
Happy New year’s to you all! Thanks for sticking with me and reading my bits of silliness; I hope I’ve given you a few smiles or even giggles, and I wish everyone the best of health and happiness in 2020!