When I was growing up, New Year’s Day was a big deal. It was always recognized with a formal dinner, shared with all of my mother’s side of the family. Nanny and Grampa would host the event. They would reserve a private dining room at the Guild Inn and all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles would gather. It required that we dressed up in our prettiest party wear. My normally straight hair would be curled for the occasion. We were also required to be on our best behaviour. In spite of the no-running-in-the-halls rule, it was an enjoyable evening and very special celebration.
I also remember how scared I use to be upon arriving at the Guild Inn. This lovely old building was set well back from the road and surrounded by a forest of mature trees. It was always dark when we arrived and for some forgotten reason I worried that I would be attacked and eaten by wolves and foxes if I became separated from mom and dad. Poor little me. I guess at the root of this irrational behaviour was Little Red Riding Hood with a touch of Hansel and Gretel throw in for good measure. Obviously fairy stories played havic with my imagination.
Today’s cold weather and snow has me remembering another New Year’s Day, one when I was about five years old. I still shutter to think of it. On that occasion, my sister and I were bundled up and shoved outside to play for a few hours in the afternoon. Like today, it was well below freezing.
Cathie and I were hanging out on our front porch. Using our woolen mitts, we dusted the snow from our porch railing. I was probably nibbling the ice balls stuck to my mitt when I noticed some small icicles hanging from the underside of the railing. I snapped several off and popped them into my mouth. “Yummmm” As a kid everything went into my mouth; my thumb included. Next, turning my head almost upside-down, I flicked my tongue and guided a few of the remaining icicles directly into my open mouth. “How refreshing.” At some point my focus drifted over to the aluminium screen door. Upon closer study some intriguing ice crystals on the door handle caught my attention. Again my little tongue darted out. The cold metal immediately adhered to my mouth. Within seconds my whole tongue and both lips were stuck to the door handle.
In the retelling of this story I don’t recall how I ever got free. Probably my sister screamed and mom or dad came running, but before they came I think I tore my head back. I freed myself but at a cost. I lost all of the skin on my lips. I do recall lots of blood. For days I was a mess and could barely talk. We still went out that night to the New Year’s Day dinner but I couldn’t eat anything that night or for several days after.
Anyway, for the next fifteen years our family continued to gather every New Year’s Day at the Guild Inn. In time we all got much older. Eventually my cousins and I started to complain that the timing of this dinner was not convenient. Did it have to be on New Year’s Day? We had been out partying the night before and were usually quite hung over. In those days we selfishly preferred to spend our time with friends, never parents. The tradition finally ended.
Looking back I realize how fortunate I was. If they were still alive, I would hug Nanny and Grampa and thank them for pulling the family together in that lovely woodland setting. Those dinners taught me many valuable life skills.
As a parting message, I wish to urge any parents of young children to tell your kids today, NOW, and never stop harping about it…….
You just don’t lick frozen medal handles! Not even a little bit.
Did your family formally celebrate New Year’s Day? What are your memories? I would also like to hear from anyone unfortunate enough to have kissed frozen metal. What are your stories?