22: Our New Year’s Eve Tradition

22: Our New Year’s Eve Tradition

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Our New Year’s Eve Tradition

One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.

~John Burroughs

Like most young couples, my husband and I felt that being out on the town on New Year’s Eve was the climax of the year. One year however, we decided to forgo the cost of dining out and hiring a babysitter and instead chose to cook our own fabulous meal! Joining us was a friend of ours who, like me, enjoyed cooking.

The menu consisted of steamed lobster and crab, mussels and shrimp sautéed in white wine and garlic, a homemade red sauce with a few added mussels and shrimp for flavour, mixed salad, angel hair pasta and a baguette to sop up all the wonderful juices. Dessert was homemade Tiramisu. This was going to be great!

The night started out perfectly. I had set the table beforehand and everything was in place. My mother-in-law had made us two beautiful tablecloths for our large oak table. One of the cloths had poinsettias in shades of red and pink, and the other was a deep shade of red with a small pattern of Santa Claus and holly. I chose the Santa tablecloth because it was a favourite and more importantly, would hide any spills the children might make. After all, they were sitting at the “big” table tonight and since they were all aged between two and four years, spills were to be expected!

Messes weren’t a big issue with this table, but there were definitely issues. From the time we had purchased it three years earlier, we had found nearly everything made a mark on it. Whether it was a hot cup of tea or a warm plate, it left a mark. We had even paid an extra fifty dollars for a special stain resistant coating. But that table had been back to the shop twice to be refinished, and I vowed I would never send it out again. I was vigilant about cleaning up spills and protecting its finish. So far so good.

Music played in the living room as we picked up the children, twirled them and dipped them, and blew little paper horns and kazoos. And of course we took the occasional breather to visit the bathroom to check on the live lobsters and crab in our bathtub. And we laughed, all the while taking turns in the kitchen.

It was during one of these turns in the kitchen that I noticed it. It didn’t catch my eye immediately, but the glow from the dining room seemed odd and I took a second look. To my horror, I saw that the tablecloth was on fire! “Fire.” I said it quietly as I stood there immobile. I suppose I didn’t want to alarm anyone.

My husband turned and looked at me. “What did you say?”

“Fire!” I said it a little louder this time as I quickly turned and filled a large glass with water. Too late — the gig was up; the fire had been spotted and children were jumping and pointing at the flame as it spread across the middle of the table. My beautiful table and tablecloth! I ran, glass in hand and doused the flames.

I don’t want to give the impression that it wasn’t a big deal to me as I stood there looking at the candelabrum. Apparently, one of the candleholders was loose and melted wax had slid down the side of the candlestick to the bottom. The softened candle had tipped and gently fell upon the table. I will admit, after a moment of staring at the scene, calmness did settle on me and our friend spoke the truest words: “Guess you won’t be worrying about stains anymore.” He was right.

We placed tea towels on the wet area, removed the candelabrum and continued with dinner. We had lots of fun as music played and wonderful aromas drifted from the kitchen. We celebrated with hoots and hollers around 10 p.m. and saw the kids off to bed. We adults stayed up and chatted and watched the New Year arrive in both Toronto and New York on TV.

We have kept the tradition of staying home on New Year’s Eve for eighteen years. We still look forward to our seafood dinner, with the addition of a chicken breast for my son who won’t eat seafood. We dress the table, play board or card games and listen to music. Sometimes we dance. Some years we host many friends; some years it is just us. And every year, I look at that old table and see the burn marks that share space with fork marks, water rings and dents. And I remember that night when the table was on fire, and smile when I remember the words: “Guess you won’t be worrying about stains anymore.”

~Cheryl-Anne Iacobellis

Barrie, Ontario

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