Saturday, December 31, 2011

Musing on New Year's Eve

As other people party on New Year's Eve, I reflect and remember.

And right now, for some reason, my thoughts keep returning to a New Year's Eve 55 years ago.

New Year's Eve 1956 was like so many other New Years Eves of my childhood: my father, usually a night owl, would retire to his bed at 7 p.m., growling about the sad state of the world, the dreadful fate of mankind and the inherent foolishness of anyone who even thought about celebrating the passage from one year to the next. His grumblings were interrupted only by his occasional calls for snacks or for another rum and Coke, sipped as he lay abed bemoaning the year past and the year to come.

And we knew the scenario for New Year's Day as well: he would rise in time to watch the Rose Parade on television, still clad in his favorite thermal ski pajamas, and make caustic comments about every marching band, every float, and, especially, every equestrian unit in the lineup with the ornate, bejeweled costumes of the riders and silver trimmed saddles further weighing down the horses.

And there was a certain comfort in such predictability.

We sat quietly with Aunt Molly that evening. My mother occasionally joined us in between ferrying food and drink to my father's lair.

Suddenly, Aunt Molly announced that she felt some poems coming on. I ran for pen and paper to transcribe her latest inspirations.

And, as I wrote her words down, memorizing them as I went along, I realized something suddenly: that facing each day and each year with a family member who saw the world in a dark and completely different way offered Aunt Molly -- and us -- a unique opportunity. We could make his dark moods our own. Or we could offer him love and understanding despite our differences and bring laughter to a usually difficult night in our house.

I was struck by the affection and gentle humor in Aunt Molly's simple, spontaneous poems to and about her brother, my father. For all their differences, differences that ran deep and angry and as long as they both lived, there was much love between them. I felt it as I transcribed her words.

                                                           New Year's Eve - 1956

Oh Father on thy bed of pain
The New Year now rolls round again.
What words of joy you bring us all
Every time we hear you call.

Oh Father keep our spirits light
With tales of plague and death and blight.
Blithe spirit let us not forget
The present's black. Our doom is set.

But if thou wilt not rise, sweet pere,
Ring out wild bells! Let every hair
Stand upright as in earth and heaven
Fools of the world greet '57.

                                The Day Father Rode in the Rose Parade

The Rose Parade was at its height
The horses pranced, the floats rolled by
When suddenly an awesome sight
Appeared against the drizzly sky.

The crowd let out a mighty roar
And rose to cheer, each man and boy,
For larroping by on an old screen door
Was the one, the only James McCoy.

His ski pajamas blazed with jewels,
His legs were beautiful to see
He rode among the cheering fools
A king of eccentricity.

He passed the stand and there unfurled
A banner scrolled in plastic foam
That read for all the waiting world:
"Okay, you've had it! Fools go home!"

We laughed heartily and together over her efforts. Even Father, languishing in bed, laughed as he read the two poems. And then Aunt Molly, my mother, Mike and I celebrated the coming of midnight and the New Year 1957 by grabbing pots and pans and wooden spoons, running around the front yard banging on the pots and yelling "Happy New Year!" to our neighbors who were also running around their yards, setting off firecrackers and yelling with joy. But the four of us had even more to celebrate that night: we were united in our loving acceptance of what was and hopeful for what might be in the New Year.

What is to be in 2012?

I hope for love despite differences, shared laugher and much joy and gratitude as we greet yet another New Year.


  1. As I read about you father, I wondered how your positive attitude managed to survive. Your Aunt Molly's humor explains a lot. Thought it interesting that your dad also saw the humor.
    I echo your wish for 2012 adn I would only add "hope".

  2. Hello...nice meeting you. I just read your guest blog post at Maggie's yesterday, and wanted to stop by to introduce myself.

    After my husband and I retired [going on 44 years of marriage] we moved from Colorado to AZ. I miss Arizona, but truly enjoy that we relocated within a few minutes' drive from the beach.

    Again, it's been a pleasure reading, tho as you put it, thinking of people who see 'the dark side of life'... your reminiscent post of a New Year's past was heart felt and honest...

  3. Happy New Year, Kathy ... I love reading about your Aunt Molly -- she was someone who really makes you realize that life really is worth living...

  4. I count it a loss that I did not know your Aunt Molly. But I count it a definite plus that I've come to know you and also that you share your Aunt Molly with us. May 2012 be the best for you yet!

  5. Happy New Year Kathy! I agree with Shelly - it's a privilege to get to know your Aunt Molly through your blog.
    Best wishes for 2012.

  6. Hi Kathy.....found you over at Maggie's......glad I did. Read your bio and look forward to getting to know you better. You live in my neck of the woods...and it is always such a treat to meet another AZ blogger.

    Happy New Year to you.


  7. Oh if I only had the Aunt Molly to get me through my childhood. She is delightful and for you to still remember her poems shows what an influence she had on your life.
    I find it interesting that your dad saw the humor in the poems too.
    Your Aunt Molly like yourself have a way with words and understanding people when others would not see it that way.
    Thank you so much for being my Blogazine Guest. Everyone loved your post as I knew they would.
    Looking forward to getting to know you and Aunt Molly more in the New Year. Glad she was there for you in difficult times.
    Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

  8. These poems by Aunt Molly explain a lot about how you did survive your childhood. I love her mirth. She truly was a delightful soul. It makes one wonder how the two of them were ever even related, let alone brother and sister.

    Happy New Year!

  9. Happy New Year! Best wishes for you!

  10. Thanks so much for your kind comments and welcome to new friends who came to this blog through Maggie! Thanks especially for your warm comments about Aunt Molly - one of the most precious people in my life!
    That said, my father was a very complicated person who actually did have a great sense of humor, could be very funny and charming, but who definitely had a dark side. I think some of their differences had to do with the different way they were raised: their father died when my Dad was 8 and Molly was 4 and life thereafter was very different for the two of them. Their mother protected and nurtured Molly and forced her son to support the family by working in movies and vaudeville, doing janitorial work in a market and selling newspapers and magazines. She beat him constantly -- if he didn't bring in enough money (while her drinking diminished profits considerably) and if he didn't keep his grades up in school. So he got a too early view of the pressures and difficulties of the world while Molly had a more normal upbringing. That's a large part of it. They were also quite different people constitutionally, I think. I loved them both and both had a considerable impact on my life. But Aunt Molly was most special -- and, fortunately, we had her in our lives much longer. I was 35 when both my parents died and 59 when Molly died. I feel blessed for every day she was present in our lives.

  11. I read your story on my special precious friend Maggie's blog today, Dr. K. What an interesting life. Where are you in AZ, as I visit there often & would love to meet you on the next visit.

    May blessings continue to shower upon you in the New Year.

    TTFN ~
    Happy New Year ~

  12. Here is to you, my friend. Here's to a year filled with poetry, whether it is found treasures or poems to write. A year filled with learning, whether is is difficult or joyful. A year filled with teaching as you do with each post. Here's to a year of love, of travel, of friendship, of joy. A year of remembering the good and bad and taking them both in stride. Happy New Year!

  13. Hello Dr. McCoy
    Just found you a our friend Maggie's site and wanted to come by and say hello and join your site.
    Any friend of Maggie dear is a friend of mine.
    My hubby and I read her adventures all the time and have become very attached to her.
    You might think that strange since we have never even met Maggie but her kind heart just seeps out in all her writing.
    We will enjoy your site too.
    Happy New Year

  14. I am so glad that I found you through my friend Maggie, who has a way of giving me a chuckle when I need it most or comes by and says hello. I have enjoyed reading your blog so very much and looking forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing your midlife with us. Happy New Year A new Missouri Friend.

  15. Oh this is a beautiful story!! I am in New Orleans, but I was raised in Glendale, Calif. I remember on New Years, my father would get out pots and pans and spoons and we'd bang them on the front porch and yell, "Happy New Year!" So fun!

    Wishing you a fabulous New Year ahead!

  16. No wonder you are such a wise lady, you come from wise stock (with the exception of your dad, possibly). I am glad to have met you and look forward to many more posts which makes problems appear solvable.

    Thanks and Happy New Year.

  17. Oh, my, I needed that...a wake up call to my grumpy, dysphoric self.

  18. You make us all stop and see through your eyes. It is a bitter-sweet memory that says a lot about how your family coped, how you all survived.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Happy New Year.

  19. Dear Kathy,
    As usual, you put life in perspective for us. Thank you.

    I've missed reading your blog as I've been out of commission for about three weeks. I'm on the mend now and hope to get back into my daily reading and commenting.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Dulcy's book. She was and is dear to me. And she has a lot to teach us about love and crankiness and finding the good and sorting out what isn't working for us. She taught me for seventeen and a half years. A true friend.

    Peace as ever and always and may the new year be filled with possibilities for growth in the human spirit. Alleluia.

  20. What a fabulous memory... Anytime we can bring joy to someone who is NOT joyful is a great moment... Sounds like you got some of your talent from your Aunt Molly. What an incredible lady...

    Great memory... Thanks for sharing, Kathy.

  21. Happy New Year, Kathy, if a little belatedly. Your beloved Aunt Molly was a treasure beyond price in your childhood, helping you and your siblings to cope with your father's unpredictable and often cruel behaviour. No wonder you remember her with such love and clarity.

  22. Aunt Molly's poems made me laugh out loud!Such imagery!! You were truly blessed to have her in your life.

  23. Just came by to say hello. I hope all is well.
    I am on a trip right now and since I need therapy for agreeing to go on this trip I of course thought of you. haha
    Take care honey