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Back in 1982, at the edge of 1983, I was a young widow. That New Year’s Eve, I was a new twenty-six. That day, I was in San Diego, shopping with three of my four sisters. There were five of us then, eight kids in all.

There we were at Neiman-Marcus as the doors were closing. The young man at the cash register, (no doubt silver haired now), was astonished that we were shopping in an empty store.

“Why aren’t you getting ready to go out?” he asked. “You’re all pretty cute.” (And we were, and to some special people we all still are!)

What he didn’t know was that we were all at home that New Year’s Eve, and Daddy was the chief at home. Daddy had told us for years – with the kind of face that was half General Patton, and half incredulousm – that at midnight, people grabbed whoever was near them and kissed them. Smack. On.the.mouth.

I told the attendant, “Nope, we’re home…our father, you know.”

He looked at us like a walking treasure that was being wasted, like four princesses who needed to be rescued.

I said, with a lot of affection, “You don’t know our father.”

Then the young man said something about how lucky we were to have such a good father. I was lucky to have a Daddy like that, who was fiercely protective of his wife and daughters. Feminists might say he held us back. But there’s not a wimp among us. His protection made us feisty. He was old fashioned. He had five daughters. It would not have boded well for the kissers to kiss his daughters for free. He was ready for a fight. All the time.

Then, there was the family custom back in the Philippines of attending midnight mass on New Year’s Eve. Things were timed so that consecration occurred at the elevation of the host.

My grandfather would prostrate himself on the church floor at that consecration.

So, you see, dear readers, I didn’t come from a family that got drunk and kissed strangers on New Year’s Eve. I came from a family where the father was hawkish and the grandfather was a real papal knight, with a sword and a uniform.

I remember one New Year’s Eve when things were particularly harsh for the family. We were in the Philippines, in the family home in Baguio. My father was hospitalized in the States. Things were very unstable politically, financially. Uncle Freddie, our own Jesuit priest came to the house and said mass for us at midnight.

As we stood around the makeshift altar, in front of the big picture of the Sacred Heart, he prayed for us in particular. I burst into tears. It was unreal and beautiful that we were having mass in our own living room.

Back to Neiman Marcus. I bought a splendid black cape for twenty dollars. It was made of heavy wool, and it has had its years of status as a Halloween prop for my many children.

Recently, it has regained its status as a special piece full of memories. Neiman Marcus at sundown, my sisters, Mimi, Lizzie, and Merci. Laughing in the car all the way home to La Jolla.

This New Year’s Eve, we will watch the ball drop in Times Square on the new television. We’ll say a prayer at midnight, and hug each other. A lovely daughter will pound out Auld Lang Syne on the piano (because the Bells are Scottish). I will breathe a sincere prayer for all good things to grow in the family and in the world.

Happy New Year to all.

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Back in 1982, at the edge of 1983, I was a young widow. That New Year’s Eve, I was a new twenty-six. That day, I was in San Diego, shopping with three of my four sisters. There were five of us then, eight kids in all.

There we were at Neiman-Marcus as the doors were closing. The young man at the cash register, (no doubt silver haired now), was astonished that we were shopping in an empty store.

“Why aren’t you getting ready to go out?” he asked. “You’re all pretty cute.” (And we were, and to some special people we all still are!)

What he didn’t know was that we were all at home that New Year’s Eve, and Daddy was the chief at home. Daddy had told us for years – with the kind of face that was half General Patton, and half incredulousm – that at midnight, people grabbed whoever was near them and kissed them. Smack. On.the.mouth.

I told the attendant, “Nope, we’re home…our father, you know.”

He looked at us like a walking treasure that was being wasted, like four princesses who needed to be rescued.

I said, with a lot of affection, “You don’t know our father.”

Then the young man said something about how lucky we were to have such a good father. I was lucky to have a Daddy like that, who was fiercely protective of his wife and daughters. Feminists might say he held us back. But there’s not a wimp among us. His protection made us feisty. He was old fashioned. He had five daughters. It would not have boded well for the kissers to kiss his daughters for free. He was ready for a fight. All the time.

Then, there was the family custom back in the Philippines of attending midnight mass on New Year’s Eve. Things were timed so that consecration occurred at the elevation of the host.

My grandfather would prostrate himself on the church floor at that consecration.

So, you see, dear readers, I didn’t come from a family that got drunk and kissed strangers on New Year’s Eve. I came from a family where the father was hawkish and the grandfather was a real papal knight, with a sword and a uniform.

I remember one New Year’s Eve when things were particularly harsh for the family. We were in the Philippines, in the family home in Baguio. My father was hospitalized in the States. Things were very unstable politically, financially. Uncle Freddie, our own Jesuit priest came to the house and said mass for us at midnight.

As we stood around the makeshift altar, in front of the big picture of the Sacred Heart, he prayed for us in particular. I burst into tears. It was unreal and beautiful that we were having mass in our own living room.

Back to Neiman Marcus. I bought a splendid black cape for twenty dollars. It was made of heavy wool, and it has had its years of status as a Halloween prop for my many children.

Recently, it has regained its status as a special piece full of memories. Neiman Marcus at sundown, my sisters, Mimi, Lizzie, and Merci. Laughing in the car all the way home to La Jolla.

This New Year’s Eve, we will watch the ball drop in Times Square on the new television. We’ll say a prayer at midnight, and hug each other. A lovely daughter will pound out Auld Lang Syne on the piano (because the Bells are Scottish). I will breathe a sincere prayer for all good things to grow in the family and in the world.

Happy New Year to all.

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