It was such a glamorous holiday in those days. I sat on the staircase in my pajamas, clutching my Raggedy Ann doll and peeking around the wall to watch the women as they came in. They shook snow from their hair and shed dark winter coats to reveal long dresses that shimmered in the lights from the Christmas tree. The men carried musical instruments in dark cases, stashing them over near the piano. We kids, hiding shyly upstairs with our own special New Year's Eve treats, listened to the polite grown-up talk that moved from living room to the kitchen. We could hear the clink of ice as they made drinks and the rustle of bags as my mother refilled bowls of chips or pretzels.
New Year's Eve parties began late and ended in the early hours of the morning, and we kids were supposed to be sleeping, but of course, we weren't. Some of the grown-ups, coming upstairs to use the upstairs bathroom, stopped to say hello. Picnic Mother, whom we knew very well from camping trips and picnics, looked the most glamorous. Thin and blonde, she wore a sophisticated black dress that looked glittery in the bedroom light. Hyper Generous Woman stopped in, full of chatter, and she asked us if we needed anything, since we were too shy to go down amongst the grown-ups.
Of course, as soon as Trumpet Player, who was married to Picnic Mother, arrived, the music began. My father and his friends jammed most of the evening, taking a break at midnight to join in the countdown and kiss their wives. My mother served a full meal after midnight, the traditional meal of ham, baked beans, potatoes, salad, and bread. We kids had eaten earlier, but we had a special treat saved for midnight: a frozen cream pie, which we all thought was the height of luxury. I fell asleep, eventually, listening to jazz and swing, all the old standards, coming through the floorboards and up the staircase, soothing and familiar music to begin the new year with