Hope everyone has a safe and happy night! Here’s a peek at how Mary Weber spends New Year’s Eve:
Mom was finishing paperwork in her truck when I reached the house. I went through the back gate. The old pine boards scraped the concrete path as it opened and shut. I took off my clogs, setting them on the gravel under the faucet and then put my socks, black with dirt, next to them before stepping through the sliding glass door.
My sweaty feet left damp footprints on the newly waxed black-and-white tile floor. The turquoise vinyl chairs at the dining room table were extra shiny, and the straw and napkin dispensers were even full. Dad knew what to do on a day like this: feed Mom’s yearly meltdown with homemade hamburgers, French fries and malts, all spread out on their fifties style dinner table.
Dad was hand-shaping meat patties in the kitchen. I grabbed a crisp piece of lettuce off the platter on the serving counter. “She’s just about done with paperwork,” I warned.
“Then cue the dearly departed teen idol, Mary.” Dad slapped a burger into the hot frying pan, causing it to sizzle and pop.
I laughed at him when he turned around. He was wearing the hideous floral print apron my mom had found at a thrift store. There was nothing like seeing your retired Navy Dad wearing something a housewife would’ve worn in the old days.
“Orange and green are definitely your colors.”
“Just don’t forget the music before you head upstairs.” He shook the spatula at me.
I saluted him with another piece of lettuce and went around the corner to the living room. Dad made Mom’s yearly mourning of the loss of “the original teen idol,” Rick Nelson, bearable. My mom had just been a kid when the singer was killed in a New Year’s Eve plane crash in 1985, but if there was anything she loved more than tacky aprons, it was Rick Nelson. Dad pretended that he did the classic American meal to feed Mom comfort food on her evening of sadness, but I knew it was his way of cooking me a special Birthday Eve dinner because Mom spent most of New Year’s Day in bed.
As long as I could remember, New Year’s Eve was all about Ricky Nelson. His music and movies ruled the night. I knew all his lines in the Here Come the Nelsons movie before I was six. I used to try to make Mom smile by choreographing dance numbers to his greatest hits as we watched the clock tick closer to midnight.
I plugged Mom’s iPod into the sound system and put her Ricky Nelson playlist on shuffle. I bumped the volume up two thirds of the way and mounted the stairs to the cowbell opening beats of “Hello Mary Lou” in hopes of getting out of earshot before the singing began.
“Great choice, Mary Lou!” Dad hollered.
“Not funny!” I yelled back.