New Year’s Eve
I don’t know if it’s because of old age or what, but I don’t recall much about New Year’s Eve celebrations before the advent of television. It may have been a non-event in my conservative household, or I might have been protected from what was a time celebrated by adults. It is likely that in my earliest years I was sent to bed, but as I grew older I got to stay up and enjoy the demise of the old year and the birth of the new. Few in my family imbibed strong drink and those who did were not likely to be at our house on New Year’s Eve. Granny, the family matriarch, had zero tolerance of such goings on. She wasn’t in favor of ‘card-playing’, going to movies on Sunday, drinking, or many activities that I would learn about from movies and TV shows. I do remember lying in bed but still awake at the midnight hour and hearing the explosions of fireworks. I wasn’t allowed to get up but I did look out my windows. I didn’t see anything.
I remember one of the first times when I was allowed to stay up on New Year’s Eve. The family had just gotten a new, big console TV set that was set up in the living room. As I recall, we watched a movie or two. One may have been an early Hallmark Special, but I don’t remember. After the movie the television network gurus took us magically to New York City. Grand crowds at Times square blocked the whole of Broadway. It was a wild scene to me, but it was nothing like the crowds that gather there now.
Back then Times Square had just a few neon signs, but none of the multi-story LCD screens they have now. Even then there were more people on those several blocks than all the population of Lawrence County. Guesses on the size of the crowd were made by the newscasters but who knows if they were close? Like a human wave, the crowd bore down the canyon between the tall buildings, apparently all wanting to see the New Year’s ball drop. Way up atop one of those buildings was the famous New Year’s ball that would begin its dissent from the top of the structure at 11:59 and would finish at the bottom exactly at 12:00. It was then that the noise really started to get loud and tons of confetti flew as if a heavy snow. There were also streamers, balloons, and hats tossed into the air with abandon. Folks celebrated wildly, running amok and cheering. I know today that there was a share of pickpockets there, too.
I had never stayed up this late so I took a chance and announced that I’d like to stay up until daylight. At my surprise, I was approved. Maybe they knew it wouldn’t happen by reason of my heavy eyelids that gave away that I would fall to sleep on the couch. There would be other times when I managed to accomplish that goal, but even then I realized that staying up is a fairly empty thing. It’s hardly worth the effort. I guess it was more about bragging to my friends and not finding it a particularly positive experience. The day following a sleepless night tends to be long and uneventful, especially considering everyone else is still asleep.
When I was a young teenager, I was invited to a New Year’s Party. This one was not in little Louisa, but in Detroit where I was visiting my mother. She and my step-father lived there and I was visiting them over the holidays. Because this was an office party, mom had a business obligation to attend. A number from her office was there, but I remember several pretty young ladies in their twenties that were very attractive. They were likely ten years older than me, so I was kidded by them. They treated me to soft drinks and finger foods and took time to ask me questions about school and how I liked Detroit. I ate my fill of chips and onion dip. I’d never had any kind of dip before but found I liked it.
At the arrival of the New Year, everyone cheered, and they began to give each other hugs and a New Year’s kiss. I scooted back in a corner with wide eyes when one of the pretty ladies approached me. She turned and asked my mom if it would be okay to kiss me. I gulped as my mom reluctantly nodded in the affirmative. Wow. She kissed me right on the mouth. Then here came the next one that did the same. With a goal to embarrass me they vocally compared notes on how well I kissed, right in front of me. I liked the kisses, for sure, but mom made excuses as while she grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the door. We suddenly had to leave. I backed out of the room telling everyone Happy New Year. Regardless, even with the party favors, the balloons, the confetti, the best part of the evening was those pretty girls and getting cornered by them. They meant no harm, but they got my attention. I think mom was mad. They’d probably lock those ladies up today.
Back in Kentucky things didn’t happen like that, but I knew I was safer and I would have a better chance in life in a more conservative environment. I stayed in Louisa rather than Detroit because I thought it best. I wanted to grow up in a nicer environment with all my classmates. Besides, I’d soon enough find out that Kentucky women know how to kiss, too.