In 1916, my father was a young boy who’d broken a truck he got for Christmas. Now was the time of reckoning, and he was scared. His mother had filled the bathtub and given each youngster a half walnut shell containing a lit candle. The vessels floated on the water to represent the arrival of the New Year. Dad couldn’t enjoy the festivities. He sat in the corner, his toys around him, knowing that at any moment the Asche Weib would arrive to take them all away.
Out With a Bang
I grew up in an urban area in the Bronx, New York City. We lived in an 18-family apartment building in a four-room apartment, but the rooms were large. My parents would invite the other 17 families for New Year’s Eve. At midnight, my Uncle John would lead a parade of children through the hallways like the Pied Piper, with pots, pans and any other homemade noisemaker we could find. The sounds echoed through the stairwells, but no one complained because they were all at the party.
Our family tradition for New Year’s didn’t involve celebratory noise, a banquet of food or hours of football. It was more about hope and optimism. Each New Year’s Day, there’d be a hefty silver dollar on the sink ledge. It came from the small treasury of silver dollars our great-uncle gifted to each child. We’d all start Jan. 1 by washing our hands with that coin. It signified that the new year would bring sufficient money to see us through, and all would be well.
Grandma Knows Best
Now Dad is gone and my mom has great-grandchildren. The grandkids have taken over most of the New Year’s responsibilities. Instead of going out, they enjoy watching their nieces and nephews. What a great legacy!
I helped her determine that her Ransom was much younger than the man who married in 1870. I won the Bible.
The dealer, who lived in Maine, wrote me that the Bible had come in a group of books from New Hampshire. She was happy to see it returned to its family. There in Great-grandfather’s spidery hand was the record of his marriage and the births of his three beloved sons, the last born 127 years ago. Where has this precious Bible been over the years? We’ll probably never know. Serendipity has safely returned it to the Kennicott family, where we hope it will long remain.
Jane Kenicott Lillard Miller » Arlington, Va.