Special to The Sun
In other days I’d be sitting at Mom’s dining room table about now, preparing to celebrate the new year in the only way my family knew to celebrate: We ate. We ate a lot, and all of it was delicious. Mom’s table seats 12, and a card table accommodates another four when all of us are home. Both tables are covered in crisp white linens that Mom and Dad brought back from their travels. Silver and crystal sparkle, conversation bubbles and not a one of us isn’t certain that all our dreams will come true in this brand new year.
Those of us who could, would have congregated the night before to share snacks and a cup of rum flavored eggnog that Mom had concocted of whipped cream and egg whites folded into milk and sprinkled with nutmeg. No alcohol for this family. None. Not ever, and none of us missed it. It might, then, seem strange that, not long after Dad died, my sister and I emptied a closet full of spirits down the kitchen drain. At least a couple dozen pretty bottles, all gifts from his business connections down through the years. Surely the sewage system diluted the alcohol before it reached the community!
After our New Year’s Day dinner, the men would congregate in the family room to watch whichever bowl game fate had provided; the kids would find their own entertainment inside or outside, weather permitting; and we women would clean up after our chicken chow mein feast. I don’t know why New Year’s Day always required something Oriental followed by custard pie, but Mom knew and the rest of us were the winners.
“All done,” Mom would chirp as she untied her apron and headed for the family room where the football game blared and conversation among the men folk, if any, was rendered in grunts and discreet advice to the players punctuated by groans or shrieks of delight in unison. “We don’t need that old TV, do we?” Mom would finish, stooping to turn it off. “Now we can talk.”
Dead silence. Nervous wriggling among the men. A casting about to make eye contact with their fellow sufferers. I don’t know why they were surprised. It happened that way every year, and — considering the sumptuous meal their gracious hostess had prepared — not a one of them including my dad could bring himself to object. And so we talked and we talked … about our kids, about the mileage our cars were getting, about plans for travel, about the remodeling one of us might be planning, about taxes and war if there was one, but no man wondered aloud how the game was going.
They didn’t have to. One after another, they would slip outside for a breath of fresh air, dial up the game on their car radios and return with an update to pass around among each other. As for Mom, I don’t think she ever caught on. As for the men, a piecemeal bowl game was a small price to pay in exchange for the opportunity to sit at Mom’s New Year’s Day dinner next year.
As for me, I just finished watching OSU rout Purdue in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl game. The Boilermakers didn’t score until the end of the third quarter and the Cowboys won 58-14. I doubt even one of Mom’s dinner guests would have bothered going out to his car to check on that game’s progress.