Is it Saturday? Every day the last few weeks has seemed like Saturday. Or a holiday fixing to get ready to happen. In grocery stores, I squint over lists of special food for Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, Christmas day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day breakfast, New Year’s Day.
Today when I woke up, I reviewed do’s and don’ts for starting the year off right. Calendars bought, but not yet hung. Indoor decorations down, but trees still up. Can’t afford to skip any opportunity for good luck or tick off Janus, the god who rules this day. Tradition says that in the first hour of the new year, you should do what you want to do the rest of the year. I planned to write in my brand-new journal during that first hour.
First Atticus must be fed. He launches out of the laundry room (we put him away at night so we can have some peace), tail fluffed in his usual overnight indignation. Takes a step and then—thump!—sits down and raises a hind leg. Runs two steps then—thump!—up goes the hind leg. This behavior indicates back-door trouble common to long-haired cats. I sigh, wondering if I need the scissors or just a wet paper towel. Dingleberry duty is not how I want to spend the next 356 days.
I manage to write a half a page in my journal before my husband comes in my office, sleep-rumpled and needing coffee. I make breakfast. Yesterday I vacuumed and did the laundry to leave the first day of 2016 unstained. I even took out the trash last night. Yes, those activities are strictly forbidden on New Year’s Day, old-time beliefs weighted with dire consequences.
Next I gather the little tinsel trees that brightened every room in the house. I can’t put them all away. One must stay in my sitting room. The royal blue or the turquoise? Wait. What’s wrong with this picture?
A weak winter sun strains to break through the clouds that stayed over us like awnings the last two weeks. At least it’s not raining. Our across-the-street neighbors are taking down their outdoor decorations. They move like clockwork toys, methodically wrapping cords and winding garlands.
Since this is the first year we put up outside lights, we aren’t so methodical. I’m pretty sure our neighbors did not swear or kick boxes clear across the garage, or knock over the vintage Raleigh bicycle and scratch the truck door.
Kids in the cul-de-sac play a stunted form of softball. Instead of flipping a coin and calling heads or tails, they flip a soda can and call “Ipod” or “Iphone.” I sigh again.
Being a Southerner, I have the New Year’s food thing down. Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas, rice, onions), cornbread (yellow food is good luck), and greens. Once I cooked our greens with a new dime, to increase our prosperity in the new year. My husband told me never do that again.
He’s from Pennsylvania and brings his own traditions to the table: pork and sauerkraut. I throw ham in the Hoppin’ John and pinch my nose at the sauerkraut. Pennsylvania Dutch also eat donuts on this day. The ring-shape symbolizes the full circle of the year.
Eating chicken or turkey is bad luck—you’ll “scratch in the dirt” all year. So, chicken, no; donuts, yes.
The day slid away from me and I became grumpy. I wanted to work on my 2016 schedules, write something besides a journal entry, finish reading a book. I spent the last hour of daylight carrying sweet-and-sour meatballs to an ailing neighbor. I don’t know what that action signified luck-wise. I took something out of the house! But I was also the neighbors’ “first-footer,” the first person to cross their threshold, a sign of good luck.
Walking back up our driveway, I noticed the darkening sky streaked with pink. Maybe tomorrow when I open my eyes, the sun will actually be shining. I resolve to treat the second day of this tender new year a little more gently.