I wanted to write something profound for a New Year's blog -- something appropriate for the old year going out and the new coming in. I could have written about the past year, but frankly, with all the terrorist activity, and demonstrations and plane crashes, I figured that wouldn't be on a positive note. And by the way, my glass is half full. I'm not a pessimist by nature. And then I thought I'd write about how great it would be for a new year that wouldn't have all the negatives, where we'd really make progress with the world's problems. Well.....maybe. Then I thought I'd write about my New Year's resolutions, which almost never are adhered to after a week or three. So, I figured it would be safe to write about happy times, back when I was a kid and I had no worries other than catching a bigger fish than my buddies, or head-shooting a squirrel out of a tall oak.
My earliest memories go back when I was five or six. New Years Eve was a gathering of every family member, some 20 in all. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The meal didn't start until after midnight. At 11:45, the men stuck road flares in snow banks in front of the house. They were lit at midnight, and my grandfather, Angelo Corbo, ushered in the new year by firing his 12 gauge Franchi shotgun. He'd go out in the yard and fire it in the air. Where the pellets landed, no one knew. The rest of us kids banged on pots and pans with wooden spoons out on the porch. One year my grandfather succeeded in shooting down the clothesline ( it was dark of course; he couldn't see it.) From that point on, my grandmother never forbade him to shoot the gun on New Year's Eve, but took down the clothesline.
The meal started at midnight, after all the kissing and hugging. First, a toast with Grandpa's homemade wine, where several barrels resided in the cool wine cellar. Every year, he and other Italians in the neighborhood ordered grapes from California. I still remember the big truck with wooden racks lumbering up the street, each resident receiving the allotted number of cases which were laid on the sidewalk. I was amazed that these grapes were transported from a state more than 2,000 miles away to where we lived in New York. My cousin Anthony and I were unhappy that the adults drank wine and we were stuck with Seven-Up. Grandma sympathized, and added two or three drops of wine to our Seven-Up. Anthony and I watched with glee as the crimson drops dissipated in the soda pop, and finally disappeared. By golly, he and I were sampling the first wine-coolers known to man. Lol.
The meal was several courses, typical for an Italian family. First we HAD to have lentil soup. It was traditional, not only in our family, but many others. It's supposed to bring good luck for the following year. Then the meal began, as the women paraded into the living room, laden with heavy dishes. There was always a big ham, chicken meatball soup, pasta, of course, Italian bread, and many other dishes that I can't remember. After the entrees were finished, there was dessert, all sorts of nuts, after-dinner liquors, usually anisette, and finally, demitasse coffee served in tiny cups. Then Uncle Phil would light a cigar, along with my Dad, and some of the men smoked cigarettes.
When dinner was finally over, Anthony and I would wrestle on the floor, usually beating up on our younger cousin Nick. We couldn't watch TV, because there were only three channels, ABC, NBC, and CBS, all in black and white, and all went off the air at midnight following the national anthem.
Some traditions die hard, or never die at all. That's why I'm making lentil soup for New Years Eve, and I'll be thinking wonderful memories that can never be erased.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.