Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Most of the people we knew lived in suburban houses. It was strange visiting someone in an apartment. New York City apartment buildings were much different than houses. They were kinda like hotels minus the soda, snack and ice machines. I would try to stand perfectly still for a few seconds and inhale the various aromas found in city apartment buildings. I would play this secret game with myself and identify the different scents.
City-style apartment buildings always have an undeniable aroma of bleach or cleanser often combined with ethnic foods, coffee and floral perfumes. It's not a particularly bad thing, but to me it's the epitome of city apartment living. I remember this same exact scent as it followed me to my minuscule Chelsea studio twenty years later. It also followed me whenever I would visit friends at their apartments in Brooklyn and around Manhattan.
Memories of New Year's Eve in Kew Gardens would be far from thrilling to the average person, but to me at a very early age, it was pure excitement. For whatever reason, we didn't own Connect Four, but my aunt did. (However, I remember my parents got it for us years later). My little brother and I would play Connect Four for hours and despite who won, my brother and I would repeat the famous "Pretty sneaky sis!" line from the commercial every time. I could recite that commercial word-for-word.
Aunt Marcy was the perfect hostess. An array of tasty snacks were always perfectly arranged and chilled soda flowed freely throughout the evening. We would feast on celery sticks drenched in dip, pigs in blankets, chips and antipasto aka "anti-past." Each salty bite tasting better than the next. My brother and I would lay on our stuffed stomachs, gripping couch pillows atop a neutrally-colored carpet. It was important to be as close to the TV as possible. Anxiously we waited for the final sixty second countdown with Dick Clark.
My older relatives doled out pots and wooden sticks for us to bang and yell, "Happy New Year!" We'd laugh ourselves sick as Grandpa always took it a step further. Throwing the window open, he'd stick his arms and head into the frigid New York January air and bang two pot tops together as if they were oddly-shaped mismatched cymbals. He had this two-finger-whistle which became his trademark noisemaker - he'd bust it out at our birthday celebrations as well. It sometimes scared the younger grand kids who weren't yet used to loud shrill noises. We'd often try to imitate that beloved whistle, but nobody could get it right.
I'm not sure why we stopped partying with Aunt Marcy and Uncle Henry in Kew Gardens. Maybe we simply outgrew it. I think we spent a few Christmas holidays in Florida, unintentionally breaking up the tradition. Sometimes my grandparents would host a similar get together at their house. One thing I remember was that Grandma would serve Bugles. Corn chips are the one snack I've never really been a fan of. Be it a Frito or a Bugle, Grandpa loved his corn chips - he never met a corn chip he didn't like. Me? I hated 'em.
This year my mom's going to Connecticut to celebrate with my grandma, aunt, uncle and cousin. Deep down I wish I was going. I would love to relive those family moments I remember from the early '80s. I would love to sit around with my family playing board games and eating salty snacks until our bellies hurt. Sadly my grandpa has since passed on, but we could bang pots and pans and keep his New Year's Eve spirit alive. I bet my uncle even knows how to whistle with his two fingers. He's from Canada - that seems like something Canadian dudes would know how to do. They're lively, fun people. Maybe next year.
How about you? What was your New Year's Eve like as a kid?
As always, thanks for listening.