Feature Writer Karen Crowder – A New Year’s Gathering When the Unexpected Happens

As one year glides towards another, we expect New Year’s Day will run smoothly, but this is not always the case.

New Year’s Eve of 1990 was festive. I was a new bride, living in what would become our home for almost twelve years. It was on Marden Street, in Fitchburg, surrounded with woods and trees, secluded from downtown noise and traffic. Almost every year we would have New Year’s Eve parties. New Year’s Eve 1990 was my first time hosting a party with my new husband Marshall.

In late November after Thanksgiving, we began discussing and preparing for this event. It would be the height of every holiday season while living at Marden Street. Even before Christmas, we knew who was coming. I made a delicious and decadent chocolate mousse. As New Year’s Eve approached, my excitement about hosting this party overshadowed my shortcomings in cooking and kitchen skills.

Monday, December 31, ushered in a cold New Year’s Eve. At eight PM five guests were ensconced in comfortable chairs and a couch in our cozy, warm, carpeted living room. The new CD player was softly playing, and the new Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments and had gifts waiting to be opened below.

Two blind couples from the Boston area and our friend visiting her home in Lunenburg were conversing and catching up on each other’s lives. With assistance, I served everyone crackers and chips with delicious store bought dips. While enjoying drinks, especially the citrus sparklers, we finally opened gifts. Everyone was pleased about the thoughtful gifts of fragrance from Bermuda and house wares bought from a new store. Everyone again congratulated us about our new marriage and our lovely home.

Before midnight, we took orders for pizzas, which were delivered from a pizza house in Leominster. Two surprise guests came to celebrate the beginning of 1991. Soon after they left, we retired. Our plan for New Year’s Day was to relax and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

However, while enjoying breakfast, the motor to our heating and cooling vents died. Marshall and I could not believe this had happened for the second time in a week. We called our local heating company, praying they would be open on New Year’s Day. After patiently explaining our situation of having eight disabled guests at our home, we hoped someone would come out on this on this bitterly cold January day. A sympathetic repairperson was at Marden Street in half an hour. He took one look at our furnace and was able to diagnose the problem. The motor running the vents was a rebuilt one. He promptly installed a new motor. We were grateful the company was open on New Year’s Day. It was wonderful to have heat again on this brisk, cold January afternoon.

My husband had digestive problems and was in no mood to go to one of our favorite local restaurants. He encouraged us to go out, but I said, “honey, we are staying right here with you.”

Despite this small change in plans, we had a wonderful and memorable day. We ordered fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and coleslaw from Popeye’s, a chain which then had a takeout restaurant in Leominster. With Marshall’s instructions, I began operating the CD player. We all listened to classical movie scores, Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

That evening, we also listened to a Steven King movie, “It,” which Marshall had recorded from TV. We ended this day by having chocolate mousse and coffee. Everyone loved the rich textured chocolate mousse and wished the day did not have to end.

The next day, after a large breakfast, our guests reluctantly left our cozy home to go back to their apartments in the Boston area.

Over the next 11 years, I would become an accomplished cook and hostess. We would have many summer, birthday and holiday gatherings at our home. It is a good thing we do not know the future. Of all the guests at the 1990 New Year’s Eve party only three of us are still alive.

I hope all Ziegler writers and readers have a joyous, healthy and successful 2014.

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