New Year#039;s memories ring true

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy New Year! New Year's Day is my mother's birthday and this year I

am meeting my extended family at a restaurant in St. Paul to celebrate her 82nd year. My parents usually stayed in on New Year's Eve and played cards with friends. At midnight they and their guests would slow dance to Guy Lombardo in the living room. My mother served coffee and cookies before everyone headed out into the cold, dark night.

We have had a very mild winter this year. Most New Year's that I remember have been bitter cold with deep, deep snow.

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One New Year's Eve, when Tom and I lived in northern Massachusetts, we were invited to our neighbor's for a party. We didn't know the hosts very well and we were new to the area so we were glad to be invited. The snow was coming down thick when we drove the mile to their house. We arrived at the party at 8 p.m. Our hosts, Duane and Nancy, met us at the door and showed us to their basement where eight card tables were set up along with a bar with various liquors and an aluminum wash tub full of Miller beer. Potato chips, dip and sloppy joes were in a crock-pot with buns nearby. Charlie Pride was playing on their record player. I thought they must have been expecting quite a few guests. We sat for half an hour sipping beer and then Nancy asked us if we wanted to play cards. We played 500 and listened to Dolly Parton sing on the record player.

After several hands of 500, Nancy went upstairs and said she had a special treat for the night. She brought down a huge bowl filled with pickled turkey gizzards.

"I pickled them myself. The butcher had a special on them. Eat up, I've got lots more," she said.

I had never eaten pickled turkey gizzards and they didn't look very appetizing, as they were large and gray. Nancy's husband, Duane, stuck a toothpick in one and started to hand-feed Nancy the pickled gizzards.

Nancy said that whiskey and water went well with turkey gizzards so she poured herself a drink. We continued to play cards and after each sip of her drink, Duane would stick a toothpick in a turkey gizzard, give it to Nancy and kiss her. The night was getting long and the conversation lulled. I was getting tired of listening to country music and I asked if they had any rock and roll.

"I have the Monkees," Nancy said.

"Okay let's hear them," I said.

Tom and I knew the words to the Monkees' songs and started to sing along.

Nancy and Duane were surprised we knew the lyrics.

"It's the Monkees. Didn't you ever watch their TV show?" I asked.

" I always had to do work. I never watched TV," Duane said.

The night went on and on and we continued to play cards and no one else showed up. Duane kept feeding Nancy turkey gizzards with a toothpick and kissing her after each bite.

It was well after 12:30 a.m. when Tom and I got up to leave. Tom went out to warm up the car while I waited in the house. Nancy was on the phone.

"Happy New Year!" I heard her say, before pausing. "I woke you up? Good. Why didn't you come to my party?"

Then she slammed the phone

down hard.

Nancy made the same call to three other people while I stood there. She had gone to a lot of trouble and she was hurt. I didn't know what to say as I

hardly knew her but when I left I said, "Thanks. This was the best New

Year's Eve party I have ever been to." We drove the mile home through deep, snowdrifts. I could see why everyone had stayed home but at least they could have called to give their regards.

We did become good friends with Duane and Nancy after that night, but I don't think they ever had another New Year's Eve party.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at