The year ended with a bang, literally. After wrangling a babysitter and getting the kids settled, we quickly dressed and headed across the street to Mags and Harolds’ to greet 1955. I was wearing one of my beautiful new blue dresses. It had tiny bows attached to the shoulders. It was feminine and fun and part of my decision to take a daily detour whenever possible. My life was little boring from time to time. Not that I don’t appreciate every moment of being a housewife. My family was healthy, my husband was good to me and a hard worker, my friends were close and important to me. But there was a little sameness to some days. I had decided to try to take a detour every day in some way. Maybe change up breakfast, do laundry on a Tuesday, shop at that new market that was opening, buy and cook some exotic food, or even surprise Steve some way. My decision to make a daily detour could apply to anything I wanted and didn’t tie me down.
Anyway, back to the party. All of the usual crowd was there and we greeted each other gaily, admiring ourselves in our finery. Men always look so much more handsome in suits or formal wear. The cocktails were flowing with Harold acting as bartender. Some of his bank partners were in attendance and Mags was a little nervous about mixing the money lenders with our crowd. There didn’t seem to be too much crossover between the two groups and the bankers were all smoking cigars while their wives clustered on the divan. Mags, Gail and I talked in the kitchen while we finished creating a few platters of food. It was a great spread with multiple colors of Jello in more than one mold. I knew that Mags had holed herself up in the house for a few days while she prepared the dishes. There were little weinies wrapped in dough, rolled meats and cheeses, olives and baby pickles and deviled eggs.
The music and voices increased in volume as the clock approached midnight. Champagne was being passed around for the toast. I saw Harold slip away to prepare himself. As host, he would kick off the toast that would culminate in the kisses and singing of Auld Lang Syne. In this crowd, there would be a lot of kissing, since most of us were well acquainted with each other and this holiday gave the men permission to kiss all of the other mens’ wives. I wondered if the bankers group would do the same.
Harold lightly clinked his glass and most of the crowd quieted down. He eloquently thanked everyone for coming and listed the big events for last year, including the great successes of the neighborhood and the bank. As the applause for Harold started to decrease, there were multiple shots heard from outside of the house. Some of the men automatically flinched or ducked; a little postwar habit that might never subside. A couple men quickly moved toward the front door to check out the noise. The crowd followed and spilled out of the house. Standing out on the sidewalk was Ken Burns, account historian, from the bank. Mr. Burns was wobbling and shuffling with a pistol hanging from his hand. He slowly started to aim the gun up to the sky but was stopped when three men in suits all tackled him simultaneously. I wasn’t able to see who the heroes were due to the crowd, until it parted. My Steve, Harold and one of the bankers were a little disheveled from the tackle. Mr. Burns was now passed out on the front lawn and his wife and a friend were slapping his face to wake him up. I grabbed Steve and hugged him tightly from a scared but proud part of me.
When most of the party had returned to the house, the party continued on a different level. There was no kissing in the new year, but we certainly were reminded to be grateful. Shortly after, Steve and I went home to find the babysitter asleep on the davenport with the kids wrapped around her. They must have slept through the gunshots. Steve woke her and took her home while I helped the children into their beds. When Steve returned, we sat at the kitchenette to talk about the new year. His reaction to the gunshot reminded Steve of memories from his military service. The rest of us were probably shocked by the fact that there was a gun shot off right outside of our homes.
I told Steve about my daily detour idea. He nodded and agreed that it might be good to change things up sometimes. He also pointed out that there can be comfort in knowing what was going to happen. Maybe those ingrained reactions in him surprised him into some new year thinking too.