Jim Mayzik SJ                   Everything Matters
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Jim Mayzik SJ Blog

I'll be using this space from time to time to share my reflections and thoughts on various topics.  Please feel free to add to the conversation by writing some reaction in the COMMENT section! 



We'll tap a keg of kindness, dear.


When I was growing up--at least in the later years--the ritual on New Year's Eve was always the same.  My parents would get ready to go to a neighbor's house for a little party in their finished basement.  My sister and I would be watching television beside the Christmas tree, my mother simultaneously getting dinner ready for us and applying her makeup.  She always looked and smelled great on New Year's Eve: hair all dolled up, some fancy dress or outfit, lots of party jewelry, and always, always with my mother, high heeled shoes.  They'd rush out the door with all kinds of instructions, and kisses and good wishes, promising to call when the clock struck twelve. 

My sister and I spent the night uneventfully watching TV or playing a game or something--occasionally a fight over what to watch or what to do--and then, sure enough, as soon as the ball fell at midnight and Guy Lombardo was still auld lang syning on the TV, in the middle of our enthusiastic banging of pots and pans out the door into the cold dark New Year night, we'd get a call from our parents wishing us a Happy New Year, and asking us if we were alright, giving us more instructions, and telling us they'd be home soon. 


Then we'd get lots of phone calls from our relatives--my mother was one of eleven children--all of them wishing us a Happy New Year.  One call we knew we'd always get was from our Aunt Katie, one of my mother's older sisters.

Aunt Katie was, to put it kindly, pleasantly plump, and she was always a lot of fun.  She was always laughing, a kind of deep belly laugh that came from her... well... deep belly, and it was the kind of laugh that was infectious, you wanted to laugh--couldn't help yourself--when you heard that funny rumble coming out of her.  She'd laugh and laugh so hard that her round face would turn bright red, and the laughter would inevitably turn into a cough, a huge rolling cough that sometimes sounded like she was going to choke. She worked for the city, she was switchboard operator for some department, and she had a husband, Uncle Willie who was a cab driver and who probably was an alcoholic.  They lived in a six story walk-up in the Bronx, on the Concourse, and they had some beauts of fights over the years of their marriage.  She lived a hard life in many ways, but she always managed to keep the people around her smiling.

When we were much younger, my parents didn't go out on New Year's Eve. They stayed home and celebrated the night with the family.  And there was one New Year's Eve I particularly remember even though I was young because it was sad and because Aunt Katie was there.

It had been a hard year for the family.  Two of my mother's siblings had died, and on that particular New Year's Eve, my mother had been to see a doctor about one of her favorite sisters, Aunt Mazie, and he had told the family that she had an incurable nerve disease, and that her death was certain.  I think that was the first time I had ever seen my mother cry, and as a young boy, it frightened and saddened me terribly.  I remember my mother coming home from the doctor's, and just sitting there in the kitchen, tears streaming down her cheeks.  I wanted to console her, but I didn't know what to do.

That was when my Aunt Katie called and said she was coming over to be with us on New Year's Eve, and would it be all right if she brought her kids and some cold cuts?  She came by without Uncle Willie, who I later found out, had walked out on her that morning. 

It was probably the most fun I've ever had on a New Year's Eve.  Aunt Katie brought a whole bunch of records, she brought these Mexican hats, she brought noise makers and a bag of confetti, and she had us playing games, and singing, and even dancing around the Christmas tree in the little living room of our house.  

I remember exactly what she was wearing--this tight, sparkle-y blue dress that outlined her ample front and rear, and I remember her doing this kind of belly dance that turned into a belly roll as she burst into one of her infectious laughing fits, ending as usual in a rolling cough that sounded like she was going to choke.  She had all of us laughing, and I remember looking over at my mother and seeing her laughing so hard she was almost crying. 

Aunt Katie, without sparkle-y dress 

Aunt Katie, without sparkle-y dress 

At the stroke of midnight, we watched the ball go down in Times Square, and as Guy Lombardo played his tune, we kissed one another and wished for one another a happy New Year. 

It was year that turned out to be full of challenges, especially for my mother, and it was good to be together as we were, to face them as a family.  Time passes by, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into years, we grow up together and older together, one new year to the next, and it is always in our families that we find the love and security we need to meet the challenges that come unexpected.  Like Mary and Joseph and Jesus, the Holiest of Families, we cling to one another on our travels, the grace of family love even in the midst of family fighting. 

They say that familiarity breeds contempt, and that is perhaps the problem with families, we tend to forget how lucky we are to have one another to ring in a New Year that can be dark and fearful and full of unknown challenges.  But you know what?  As with the Holy Family--there is always God's love in the middle of every family, holding it together, protecting it, empowering each of its members to help one another, to reach out to one another, to make us laugh when we want to cry. 

Every New Year's we wish for one another--and for the world--happiness and peace, and these great visions we have of a world at peace and in love, they begin in our families, our holy families, as the salvation of the world for all time began in the holiest family of them all.  That's why we must listen to the wisdom of Sirach, who tells us to honor and revere our mothers and fathers, that's why the word of St Paul are important, who tells us to clothe ourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, and above all, in our families, to put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect. 

We are a family, all of us, we are all descended from the same mother and father, we are all created by the same love that made the universe.  Out of that love, let us bring in the New Year together in peace and harmony, let us take the love we have within our families, and this family, to our brothers and sisters outside the warm of this house.  May this year be for all of us a truly happy and holy one, we ask this in the name of love, who is Jesus, Amen.  

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and never brought to mind,

should auld acquaintance be forgot,

in days of auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

May auld acquaintance be forgot,

For days of auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We'll tap a keg of kindness, dear,

in days of auld lang syne.




James MayzikComment