Celebrating memories of New Year’s Eve

“There’s a time and place for everything,” my mother would sternly remind her daughters, who sometimes giggled during Mass and spoke out of turn at the supper table.

She was echoing Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, which reminds us, “There’s a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

In my fourth year of widowhood, I’ve discovered there’s also a perfect time to cherish special memories — and for me, that’s New Year’s Eve.

In my childhood, New Year’s Eve always featured amazingly delicious Italian meals followed by an impromptu parade around the block.

My mother carefully prepared manicotti, spending hours making the crepes in a small frying pan and preparing a huge pot of homemade sauce, which we called gravy.

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On the big night, the folks around the table included my parents, my sister and myself, plus an array of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Once the feast was devoured and champagne glasses emptied, my mother served homemade hazelnut biscotti accompanied by cups of black coffee spiked with anisette.

As the magic hour drew near, everyone headed into the kitchen to grab a pot and pan, along with a serving spoon that could double as a drum stick. Then the entire entourage paraded around the block, joyfully banging our cookware and laughing uproariously.

For many years, my husband and I created our own rituals for the big night, such as handing our guests slips of paper, upon which everyone wrote down something they were relieved to say goodbye to.

Such events might include surgeries that had required boring bed rest, plus deadlines for work projects that had caused considerable angst. We tossed the papers into the fireplace and watched with satisfaction as they turned into ashes fluttering over the flames.

Next, we all headed downstairs to watch the new year ring in on TV, and then my husband carefully selected a B movie from our DVD collection. A film that truly fit his strict criteria — bad acting, an absurd plot and lame dialogue — was “The Killer Shrews,” in which the “shrews” were ordinary dogs decked out in shag carpet.

Another memory that brings me joy features an evening early in our marriage, when we went out to a nightclub and had a wonderful time dancing, but arrived home much later than expected.

One of our cats, Snarf, had escaped from the house and climbed to the top of a tree near our bedroom window. She was meowing in distress, so Jef hauled out a ladder and tried to get her down, but she resisted mightily.

Finally, we headed to bed, but neither of us could sleep, since Snarf continued meowing insistenly, as the tree swayed back and forth in the wind.

When dawn broke, Jef tried again to rescue her, and this time, Snarf climbed into his arms quite happily, purring up a storm.

Then there was the afternoon we were taking a walk during the holidays in our heavily wooded neighborhood, when Jef suddenly stopped and gave me a big smooch on the lips.

When he saw my puzzled look, he pointed skyward, where I saw clumps of mistletoe growing in the tree.

It’s true what Ecclesiastes says, that there is a season for everything, and some seasons, like mourning, do eventually give way to healing —”a time to dance.”

On New Year’s Eve, I plan to eat a fine Italian meal, followed by some rich and decadent dessert. And if I’m feeling especially feisty, I might plunk down on the couch and re-watch that classic B-film, “The Killer Shrews.” Happy New Year, my dear readers!

Lorraine has written three cozy church mysteries —“Death in the Choir,” “Death of a Liturgist,” and “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

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