Monday, December 31, 2012

what are you doing new year's eve?

My best, bittersweet New Year's Eve memory is that of my parents dancing around the living room to Guy Lombardo "Auld Lang-Syne" or Glenn Miller's "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve." By the time they were raising me and my younger sister, the last of their eight children, they didn't often find much time to dance. They both were working two jobs. The economy in the 1970s was much like it is today. Mom's health issues were just beginning to manifest themselves, and Dad was approaching 60. And yet dancing on New Year's Eve seemed the most natural state for them. After all, that is how they met.

It was 1940, and as the stories go, my dad's brother Dick, who had already met my mom a few weeks earlier, took my dad to Mrs. Jones' Dance Studio where my mom was one of the ballroom dance instructors. In my imagination, the story of their meeting is like something out of a movie: Glenn Miller's music crackling on a phonograph, a mirrored dance-hall ball spinning overhead, and suddenly a tall smiling man in a white suit walked in the door.

Monday, December 24, 2012

my first christmas dinner at bubba's

Christmas of 1989, my first after having moved to New York City, would have been fairly lonely had my then brand-new-beau Bob not invited me to his home in Beaver Falls outside of Pittsburgh PA to celebrate the holidays with his family, or should I say at "Bubba's." That's what his family called his mother. Bob's father's side of the family was Serbian, and even though his mother is a lean, wise-cracking, back-woods Kentucky woman--someone who's real name of Katherine or "Kitty" would have suited her better--nevertheless, as soon as her first grandchild was born, she was given the nickname "Bubba," a Serbian term of endearment for grandmothers.

Now Bob's family is one of the wildest, most chaotic groups of people that this little son of a lockstep German woman has ever spent the holidays with, but that first Christmas at Bubba's swirls in my memory as the wildest. The whole family was there, running from room to room, jabbering and worrying: grandkids with toys, cousins with casseroles, brothers-in-law in front of the football game, and his dad, a good-natured retired house painter who was recovering from a car accident, which of course, had everyone a little more on edge than usual that year.

Bob was most nervous of all because, on top of everything else, he hadn't told anyone in the family about "us," and wasn't sure if anyone would figure "us" out. To me, it seemed they were all so distracted by their own concerns and doing their best to stir up such a crazy-as-wet-hens celebration, that the little redheaded stranger in the forest of giant Serbians would be the least of things for anyone to concern themselves with that day.