New Year’s Day superstitions


New Year' dinner with all the good-luck foods

Do you suppose there is any truth to the old saw that the way you spend New Year’s Day is an indication of the way your new year will go? If that’s not true, why eat black-eyed peas on January 1. This morning, I thought my new year was off to a really rocky start. I put honey and a tea bag in a coffee cup, ran hot water into a measuring cup to heat in the teakettle—and promptly poured it into the coffee cup. A ritual I’ve done a thousand times, and I blew it! Not a good sign.

Truth is the new year is off to a rocky start at the Alter/Burton complex. Sophie is hanging in there, maybe eating a little more but still not enough to sustain a bird, not drinking as much as we would wish or peeing as often. We are all holding our collective breath until we return to the vet at ten o’clock Tuesday morning. Meantime, JuneBug, who had us all convinced she was headed for the rainbow bridge, has brightened. She is eating a bit more and seems a bit stronger. Still nothing to brag about but doing a bit better.

But this morning Jordan wakened with a swelling in her face—right about at the junction between her upper and lower jaw. At first she said it didn’t hurt, but then she discovered it hurt to eat. And as the day went on it became more painful. Finally in the early afternoon they went to an ER clinic, where the diagnosis was “inflammation,” which doesn’t tell you much about why or what to treat. She’ll probably have to wait until Tuesday to see her doctor. So we are in this waiting game, for Jordan and for the dogs Our motto is, “Just two more sleeps.”

But if what you ate for dinner is any guide, we should eat well in the coming year. I planned a whole meal around Christian’s childhood memories of New Year’s Day: black-eyed peas, ham, cornbread, and Christian’s special green beans, sauteed in bacon grease and splashed with vinegar. No, it is not the healthiest meal you’ve ever eaten, but it sure was good. I ate a full plate and wished I had room to do it all over again

The trouble is—or maybe it’s not trouble—I got carried away. I found some easy directions for peas and didn’t pay attention to the quantity. So I cooked a pound of peas, enough for eight to ten people—so easy, with no pre-soak but just eight hours on low in the slow cooker. There were just the four of us for all those peas! The ham and green beans were no problem, because Jordan bought one of those small pre-cooked hams—I would always prefer a real, bone-in ham to those pre-packed things that I suspect of having too much water content. But this was really good. And the green beans? I always make a lot because everyone likes them. But oh my, the cornbread—I used that recipe that’s so bad for you—Jiffy mix augmented with (lots of) sugar, sour cream, butter, a couple of eggs, and a bit of Parmesan. It made a 9x13 dish! We’ll eat those leftovers, though. I am already savoring cornbread for breakfast. And maybe ham salad for lunch.

I don’t really think our ongoing problems—Jordan and the dogs—are an indicator for the coming year. My mind today is filled with the end of that novel I’ve been working on forever—I can finally see how it ends. And I devoted much of my day to reading a novel I’d started and put aside. I decided my current habit of starting novels and deciding I wasn’t interested might be more of a problem with me than the books I chose. And now I’m enjoying what I’m reading: The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany. Italian family curses passed down through generations, lots of good Italian food, a setting in Venice and Florence, and yes—more than a touch of romance, but no murders! I figure the literary part of me is off to a good start.

And the public citizen in me is encouraged—the Biden administration has passed landmark bills improving life for all of us, and those who embrace an anti-democracy attitude are in such disarray I think they may simply implode. Yes, there are lots of battles ahead—women’s rights to their own bodies, the right of each and every citizen to vote, an immigration system that works for our country and for the many immigrants who see America as their escape from a life of violence and brutality. And, frankly, I’d like to be rid of some of the loudmouth, uncivil voices that harangue us daily, trying to feed their base with rage. But I feel the world has tilted on its axis toward the good side. I think the good guys just might win.

My new year’s resolutions? I don’t really make many, never have. But this year I want to be a bit more conscious that we are all in the same leaky boat together. I want to remember to reach out to others in kindness, to give a helping hand or thought when it might do good, to see myself as part of the greater, worldwide community. The more I read, the more I believe the Biblical words, “Faith, hope, and love—and of these, love is the greatest.” (Okay, rough quote, but you get the idea.)  If we can all love each other, the world might be a fine and dandy place. Yeah, it’s a pipe dream, but maybe we can inch a bit closer in 2023.

Wishing all of you a year that brings home your dreams, a year that is whatever you need and want it to be. Did you eat your black-eyed peas and ham?

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