At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, I have to confess that I have never been a fan of New Year’s Eve. The countdown to midnight culminating in the drunken frenetic jubilation as the ball drops has always felt a bit contrived and forced to me. Maybe it’s because I’m partied out after Christmas, but New Year’s celebrations have just never been my thing. In fact, my best New Year’s Eve occurred a million years ago when I was eight years old.
When I was a kid, my parents usually went out for New Year’s Eve. I remember watching each year, with a certain level of childish resentment, as they got all dressed up and swanned off to mysterious adult celebrations, while we were left home with jiffy pop and a variety of dubious teenage sitters. However, one year when I was eight, one of my sisters was five, and my other sister was just a baby, we got lucky, and my parents arranged to have our maternal grandparents babysit on New Year’s Eve. They didn’t explain at the time, but I figured out the next morning, that they were attending a party at a friend’s house and had been invited to stay over so they could imbibe and not have to worry about driving home impaired.
I’ve spoken quite a bit about my paternal grandmother, who was a huge influence on me, but my mother’s mother was also a wonderful person, lot’s of fun and full of folksy good humor. She kept emergency cash in a hankie pinned inside her bra that she called her secret tittie-oot bank. Not only was Grandma going to let us stay up to midnight, but we were going to have noise-makers, my grandmother’s homemade fudge, and “cocktails.” Our cocktails were Shirley Temples she made with ginger ale, cherry juice, and loads of maraschino cherries. We were so excited; we thought we’d died and gone to kid heaven.
The year my grandparents stayed with us on New Year’s Eve we had seen the debut of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in the theater. Needless to say, the movie made a huge impression on us. It was colorful, magical, and a room where everything was made of candy was the stuff of our wildest dreams. But the part of the movie we enjoyed the most was the bit about fizzy lifting drinks. In the film, Charlie Bucket and his grandfather sneak off from the group and illicitly sample some soda pop that is still under development. They get into trouble when the carbonated beverage causes them to rise to the ceiling towards a fan that will cut them to ribbons. They have to make themselves burp to expel the gas and return to the ground.
I am sure you can see where this is going. Growing up we hardly ever got to drink carbonated beverages, so the ginger ale in our cocktails seemed like a special treat to us. Hopped up on sugar and the thrill of the late night, we got extremely punchy and decided that the Shirley Temples were really fizzy lifting drinks. I remember my sister and I racing all around our house, jumping on the furniture and pretending we were flying through the air and then belching loudly and repeatedly while laughing like crazed hyenas. My grandmother, bless her soul, took it all in stride and thought it was hilarious but I also remember my poor beleaguered grandfather saying, “Ollie, (her name was Olive) you are getting those girls too wound up. I am sure they are going to puke and then I will just put you in the bathtub with them!”
They always sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, and I am told that the words are old Scots, meaning for old time sake. Despite the fact that I don’t particularly enjoy New Year’s Eve, it always causes me to recall that crazy night with my beloved grandparents, and that is auld lang syne worth celebrating. So, this New Year’s I will stay in, have some fudge and raise a cocktail to simpler times and my lovely grandparents. Though, maybe I will substitute a Kir Royale for the Shirley Temple.
Happy New Year!
Recipe for a Shirley Temple
Splash of maraschino cherry syrup or Grenadine
Pour ginger ale over ice, add a splash of cherry syrup or Grenadine and garnish with lots of maraschino cherries.
Recipe for Kir Royale
Creme de Cassis
Maraschino cherries or Red Raspberries
Pour a splash of Creme de Cassis over chilled Champagne and garnish with maraschino cherries or red raspberries.