I have written about celebrating New Year's Eve as a kid here before. In Happy New Year 1976! I was able to do some detective work to confirm a vague memory of a New Year's Eve party from my childhood. In this post we will explore another ancient New Year's Eve memory from around that time. But this one doesn't need to be confirmed through research--I don't think there would be a way to even attempt to do so. In the recent post Reliving an Embarrassing Moment from My Youth I wrote about something that happened to me as a kid that I found so humiliating that I had always kept it to myself. In reality what had happened was kind of a small thing (I wore two different sneakers to school one day back when I was in middle school) and I don't think anyone other than myself even noticed. I realized that my mind had categorized this as a traumatic event when it really wasn't. It was kind of a minor event that was built up to be something big by my psyche--and the blog post itself. It felt like I was baring my soul and putting something "out there" (airing my dirty laundry as it were) by writing about it all these years later. It almost seemed like a cathartic thing to share (maybe even therapeutic in a strange sort of way?). But I'm sure that readers were left feeling kind of like "that's it?"
Before we get any further it's worth mentioning here that this is another example of an embarrassing moment from my youth. And it's once again a quite minor thing that was more of an embarrassment in my mind than it was in reality. In fact I had never shared this story with ANYONE from the time it happened until probably 10 or 15 years ago or so when I shared it with my best friend and his wife. It was probably during a New Year's celebration of our own and I felt enough time had passed that it was more of an amusing kid story than anything else. Well, my friend's wife has gone on to say that THIS is her favorite story of mine from when I was a kid! So it's probably a good one to share here, now that I seem to be opening up and writing about all the embarrassing moments of my youth.
I was part of a big family. I have eight siblings (seven sisters and one brother). When I was a kid my family had pretty substantial New Year's Eve parties. They kind of petered out before I hit my teenage years, but I do have some fond--if hazy--memories of them from when I was little. One of the most important parts of these parties was the food. My father would go out of his way to put all kinds of interesting and exotic shacks out on our kitchen table. Frequently there would be things you (especially as a kid) had never seen or even heard of before. It was fun, but there was also something kind of mysterious and even intimidating about it. What is this strange stuff? Should I dare to eat it? Will I be made fun of if I DON'T try it? Not everything was exotic and foreign of course. I dimly remember there being standard cocktail party fare like olives, pickles and cheese & crackers on the table next to things like Vienna sausages (with burning Sterno fuel to heat them up) and chocolate covered ants or grasshoppers. Here's a couple photos from one of our New Year's Eve parties (December 31, 1977) that my sister found and put up on Facebook a while back. This is probably a couple years after the events of this blog, but certainly close enough to be a great illustration for the story:
|New Year's Eve celebration 1977-78|
|Me partaking in some New Year's Eve snacks|
|Here's our kitchen table around 1972|
Whatever the reason I suddenly felt a need to sneak under the table and try some of that forbidden cheese! Finding the right moment I ducked under the table--not a terribly difficult thing for a little kid to do. Once I was sure no one was looking I made my way toward the back wall and my prize. There it was--the mysterious and tempting cottage cheese. I reached out and picked it up. My mind didn't seem to notice that the consistency of this particular bit of cottage cheese was quite different from what I had seen on the table. It was solid--more in line with what I had traditionally thought of when I thought of cheese. But it was indeed white. Probably the only thing on the table that was that white was the cottage cheese, so this MUST have been cottage cheese too, right? I brought the object closer to my mouth and I took a bite. Well, it turns out that this thing WASN'T cottage cheese, and I knew it instantly (even having never tasted cottage cheese). No, this out of place object was actually a piece of soap. Why a piece of soap was sitting on the floor under our dining table in the kitchen I have no idea, but there it was. And while I have never had my mouth washed out with soap for doing something "wrong", I suddenly found myself in the odd position of washing my OWN mouth out with soap. There certainly wasn't a "reason" for me to be doing so beyond mistaking one white object for another, but in a way it almost seems like I was unconsciously punishing myself for coveting that forbidden cottage cheese. However one might choose to define my actions I had indeed unwittingly taken a bite of soap. And it wasn't a pleasant experience. Not at all. But it did become one moment of a long-past New Year's Eve celebration that I still recall to this very day more than forty years later. I can't say that anything else from that night was stored in my long-term memory, but that strange cottage cheese/soap incident is forever etched in my mind.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!