A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn
As the holiday season draws to a close, I am filled with warm-hearted memories of family and friends, especially this year during which I was so dependent on the goodwill of others due to my broken foot. Truth be told, though, my childhood memories are much the same, as those holidays of over half a century ago were also filled with domesticity shared with those most close to us.
My parents were always social beings. They belonged to country clubs, church circles, and bridge groups. The served on arts councils, volunteered with theater groups, and taught Sunday School. They gave coffees and open houses and dinner parties, all in our home.
Given this outward bound bevy of activity that ran through our lives, you could easily have expected my childhood New Year’s Eve memories to be as brief as the starch on Father’s best dress shirt and a whiff of Mother’s best perfume. In fact, my memories are almost the complete opposite. New Year’s Eve in our house was always a family affair.
During my early childhood years in Columbus, Ohio, New Year’s Eve was spent with two other families, whose friendship remained constant throughout the older generation’s lives. The initial connection was that all three men worked for the same company and attended the same church. The wives were all stay-at-home moms, and our houses were all small.
All the same, each couple took a turn hosting New Year’s Eve, complete with all of us rambunctious youngsters in attendance. We took the first turn that I remember, primarily because we owned a TV. This bumped the entertainment component up a giant notch, even though the screen was a tiny thing indeed.
Leftover Christmas cookies and candies, as well as a ruby red punch bowl filled to the brim with eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg, stood at the ready and awaited our guests. A tuna casserole topped with crushed potato chips remained warm in the oven. Bottles of Coke and 7Up were stored in the coldest part of the basement, our supply of ready made ice being quite limited.
Dinner was to be a potluck, and each of the other wives had promised to bring her share. Mrs. K brought an orange Jello salad that was filled with crushed pineapple and sprinkled with cheese. Nothing could have made us feel any more exotic. Mrs. F brought a vegetable casserole – casseroles of all kinds being her signature. Each husband bore a plate of additional treats for dessert. My paternal grandmother and great-aunt joined us from the other side of The Double, as we called the duplex we shared, and brought warm homemade rolls and lemon curd, along with plenty of real butter.
It was to be a great feast, and somehow feeling the chill of the outside air that filled our tiny living room as each new group of guests arrived with their contributions just added to the festivities. Dinner began as soon as Mrs. F’s vegetable casserole had been unwrapped from its many layered cocoon.
Plates for us children who were out of highchairs were readied first, and we eagerly took our places at the mint green wooden kitchen table on which Mother had stenciled a black rooster. Adults and babies made their way into the dining room – a mere pass through room between the living room and kitchen, but not before we older children were admonished to behave.
I had been carefully schooled beforehand that as the oldest child of the household I would be hostess to the kitchen group, and it was my responsibility to maintain order. Feeling very grown-up, I was still scared to death, as I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this important task. Luckily, hunger and the quality of the food took care of my concerns.
Once dinner was over, the babies were taken upstairs and put to bed. The men went into to the living room, where they were served coffee, while the women cleared the table and washed the dishes. This left the three oldest of us children – one from each household, and we were given dishcloths and put to work drying.
With this many hands involved, clean-up was quick work. The goodies were arranged on the living room end of the dining room table for easy access by everyone, and the other end was spread with games and puzzles and coloring books.
My great-aunt held court at this end of the table, opening a new puzzle and asking us to help her sort out the edge pieces and locate the corners. Almost as tiny as we were, her presence as an adult still carried weight, and we eagerly bent our heads over the pieces and began sorting.
Gradually, the puzzle began to take shape, and it kept us occupied for much of the evening with breaks for TV and help from various grown-ups as they stopped by for a piece of fudge or a cookie and paused to give advice. Finally the layout of a Midwestern farmyard was completed a short time before the punch bowl filled with eggnog was brought out for toasting in the new year – 1954.
The babies from upstairs were now retrieved and zipped into their snow suits. Coats were donned, along with hats, scarves and mittens. Mrs. F carried her scrubbed casserole dish, and Mrs. K cradled the crystal plate that had displayed the orange Jello salad. Father walked my grandmother and great-aunt over to the other side of the double, making sure that they didn’t slip on the ice, as our tiny living room once again filled with the chill of a Midwestern winter and the rest of our guests took their departure.
Father returned, and the three of us made our way upstairs to join my sister who had long since been put to bed. Lights were turned out, and we all snuggled into our beds – filled with good food and good cheer and warm memories of time spent with good friends.
Now, I ask you, can you think of a better way to start a new year?
May you have a Happy New Year, too!
Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) by Annie Acorn
Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn
Also available for NOOK!
Annie Acorn’s 2012 Christmas Treasury (Annie Acorn’s Christmas Anthologies) edited by and stories by Annie Acorn