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.

Continue reading “what are you doing new year’s eve?”

my first christmas dinner at bubba’s

chocolatecakeChristmas 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. Continue reading “my first christmas dinner at bubba’s”

working-class heirlooms

mom portraitMy sister Sally’s return address stuck out on the corner of the padded parcel envelope that someone had crammed into my mail cubby in the faculty lounge. I removed my gloves and carefully extracted the package from its tight squeeze, fearing that Christmas cookies, or what have you, might have been crushed. It was that time of year again. From Thanksgiving to New Years, my large family sent small gifts and packages to my work address in the City (the postal service in Brooklyn was not to be trusted), and most times the people at the elementary school knew better than to cram a package of cookies into a five-by-five-inch cubby.

As I freed the last corner of the envelope from the metal rim of the mailbox, I could tell that the contents were not crumbly at all. Rather, whatever was inside felt soft and pliable, like a small quilt or pillow. Continue reading “working-class heirlooms”