New Year’s Eve

by Kim on December 29, 2009

When I was a child, New Year’s Eve was the second best day of the year. Christmas day comes first, of course.  We anticipated New Year’s Eve with almost as much enthusiasm. My parents were married on New Year’s Eve, and every December 31st we celebrated their anniversary as a family.

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Mom and Dad on their wedding day - December 31

Beginning in the morning of the last day of each year, my father would start by telling his version of their courting years and the day they got married. My mother had her version of stories as well and it seemed like the only story they had in common about that day was that it was very cold outside. As they waited outside the Justice of the Peace’s office in Valpraiso, Indiana, a snowstorm blew through and my father offered his coat to my mother and then wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm.

My Mom had a son before my parents were married. They dropped him off at a sitter’s house and then drove to Indiana to get married. There was no waiting period for a marriage license there. My father was a man who pinched pennies and it occurred to him that if he married my mother the last day of the year, he could get a great tax deduction. Because my mother had a child, it was a double bonus for that tax year. He did not marry my Mom because of the savings, but he did marry her the 31st of December instead of in January to take advantage of the tax situation. It was a running joke throughout their marriage about my father’s great deal.

Preserve Family History

Family Photo after Wedding

My parents were 33 and 32 when they married. They met at a diner where my Mom was a waitress. She worked there during an economic slump at the factory (see: Living on the Edge ). My father would come into the restaurant to eat, but after a while he dropped by just to see my Mom. During their courtship, Dad would go to her house after she got off work and visit with her and her son. Later, because my Mom had a child and couldn’t afford a sitter, my Dad would leave and go out on the town with his friends. It bothered my Mom that he left her to go out with his friends – instead of staying for the whole evening. They argued about it and when he left, she told him “not to let the doorknob hit him in the a**”.  After she refused to see him unless he fully committed to their relationship, a few weeks later they decided to elope.  And my father adopted my mother’s 4 year-old son. My father re-told the story about the doorknob throughout the years. He admired my Mom’s spunk and his eyes twinkled when he told this story.

New Year’s Eve was the only day of the year that our family went out to dinner. It was quite a gift from my father to agree to the extra expense. (see: My Dad – the Original Organic Gardener ) His treat for my mother to spare her one day a year from cooking dinner. We usually went to a restaurant called FAYLI. It was a diner that was near a highway in town and was often frequented by truckers. We found out later that it stood for “Food As You Like It.”  They had a large booth in the corner and all 7 of us could fit in there. We were allowed to order what we wanted. Every year, my mother ordered chopped beef  with mashed potatoes and gravy. I remember that each of us kids would order a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake. My Dad would order whatever they had on the special menu varying from liver and onions to corned beef and cabbage. He interacted with the waitress, telling her the reason for our dinner and we would often get extra cherries in our milkshakes or a free dessert. My mother was unusually giddy at these dinners and I remember much laughter and more courtship stories coming from our corner booth.

Preserve Family Story

My parents on their 25th Anniversary

After dinner, we would return to our house and my Mom and Dad would have a cocktail – usually Seagrams and Pepsi. My parents never drank and it fascinated us to see them drink alcoholic beverages on New Year’s Eve. We also never had soft drinks at our house, let alone potato chips and other snacks. This one time a year though, they splurged and we had our chips with homemade potato chip dip, and  as many soft drinks as we wanted. They brought out the Tupperware tall plastic glasses that were used only when company came and we put ice and Pepsi in them. I still enjoy a soft drink out of a Tupperware glass as it brings back memories for me. Sometimes their friends would come over to our house and they played pinochle at the dining room table while the kids watched TV or listened to our records on the turntable. Other times, when their friends didn’t come, we would play our favorite marble game called Aggravation with all of the kids old enough to play.  Because my Mom only drank once a year, she would often fall asleep on the sofa for a short time during the evening after her two cocktails. I don’t remember watching the ball drop on Times Square on TV, but I do remember watching my parents kiss at midnight. They weren’t usually publicly affectionate, so any physical interaction was memorable.

New Year’s Eve was a special day at our house. When I think about details about that day in my family, it reminds me of an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” which always had a happy ending. I love that my parents celebrated this day with us and took the time – and money – to make it so special for all of us. I play my own black-and-white memory video in my mind of my happy childhood and episode one is a typical New Year’s Eve day with my family.

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