June 13, 2024 1:45 pm

In My Own Shoes: Begging to burn the midnight oil

I wanted to be a big girl. I yearned to be a big girl. I knew I could do it like a big girl, but every year my parents wouldn’t let me.

All I wanted to do was stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve like the big kids and grownups did. I longed to see that beautiful, bejeweled ball slide slowly down into Times Square announcing the new year, watching the throngs hug and kiss and blow horns while a veritable mountain of confetti rained down upon them. That’s really all I wanted, but my parents thought better of it. Still, I knew I could prove them wrong. I knew I could do it. “Just give me a chance,” I wailed each year, “and I’ll stay up! I can do it. I can make it till midnight.”

So somewhere around my 11th or 12th birthday they let me win the annual argument. This would be the year, my year. I would stay up, eat some hors d’oeuvres, prepare a ginger ale in a champagne glass with a maraschino cherry on top, toast with my mother and father, and listen to the music of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Billed as “the sweetest music this side of heaven,” Lombardo held court at the fabulous Waldorf Astoria, which I thought was very grand. Beautifully gowned ladies with mink stoles and men in tuxedos seemed to float across the floor each time the TV cameras cut away from the crowds in Times Square. I knew I wanted one day to be one of those grand ladies securely in the arms of a handsome man twirling about as Guy and his band played. But for now, I was content to watch and wait for the big hour when the Royal Canadians would play their signature, “Auld Lang Syne,” that officially ushered in the new year. I had no idea what “Auld Lang Syne” meant, but I knew it meant the start of a new year and celebrating well after midnight like I would do.

During the day that led up to the big night, my mother suggested I take a nap. It would be “insurance,” she said. But I assured her I needed no insurance. I was much too excited. Besides, naps were for little kids, and tonight I was an adult. I was going to do this!

We had a light, early dinner around 5 p.m. because Mom knew there would be plenty of snacks throughout the evening. I could hardly eat, that’s how excited I was. A few days prior we had gone shopping, and along with the requisite Wise Potato Chips and Lipton Onion Dip, Cheez Whiz, and Ore Ida Frozen French Fries (the popular snacks of the ’50s), I convinced my mother that we had to have paper hats, noisemakers and balloons. She drew the line at confetti because, as she said, “I don’t have to vacuum the Waldorf, but I do here.” I was going to point out that our house was clearly not the Waldorf, but decided against it.

Somewhere around 7 p.m., my Dad blew up the balloons. “Aren’t five enough?” he asked half-heartedly. “No!” I wailed, “We need a lot of them like at the Waldorf!” He countered, “This is not the Waldorf.” Again I was tempted but kept my mouth firmly shut.

8 p.m.: The chips and dips are out, and I waste no time getting into them. Potato chips were my favorite then and my #1 food group now.

9 p.m.: The French Fries emerge hot and salty, and I am beside myself with excitement. My Dad is thoroughly engaged watching TV, so I join him, snuggling up on the couch.

9:45 p.m.: I put an afghan around me and snuggle even more into those soft, welcoming cushions.

10:15 p.m.: I start yawning. My parents give each other a knowing look, and I straighten right up defiantly.

Somewhere between 10:30 and 11 p.m. … Gone!

11:55 p.m.: My mother gently wakes me and tells me it’s almost midnight. I open my eyes halfway.

Midnight: I awake fully as I hear the noisemakers, see my parents kiss, and hear Guy Lombardo playing that old sweet song. I made it. I guess. Well, sort of.

12:05 a.m.: I shove the last of the chips into my mouth and pad down the hallway to my bedroom. “There’s always next year,” I reason. I guess I did make it.

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