But first a little background:
My father was 20 in 1929 when the stock market crashed. A lot of people lost their jobs, but some bosses reduced everyone’s hours so they didn’t have to put people out of work. Therefore, when my father was a young man, he still lived with his parents and worked only a few days a week, as did several of his friends. They spent most of the winter at the Community House, which was much like a YMCA. My father became an excellent gymnast. Summers, they played tennis in an empty lot that they had rigged up with a tennis net. My father also excelled on the makeshift tennis court.
Five of the guys remained friends throughout their lives. One lived in the country and had built a picnic shelter and fireplace in his yard, so we had a 4th of July celebration there each year. Strangely, my family always held a New Year’s Eve party. I say “strangely” because my parents were the only ones who never drank or served alcohol, but since it was a family gathering with the possibility of winter road conditions, perhaps that was a good thing.
A MEMORABLE NEW YEAR’S PUNCH
My mother worked for weeks to plan each New Year's Eve party down to the last detail. She wanted everything to look beautiful and taste terrific. She, my sister and I spent days cleaning, shopping, decorating, creating holiday cookies, and preparing snacks, appetizers, and hot food for the gathering.
The year I was about 11 or 12, my mother had a brilliant idea for the non-alcoholic punch we would serve. She found a recipe for a red punch. The day before the party, she arranged maraschino cherries in the bottom of a large donut-shaped jello mold and added just a little of the mixture she had prepared for an ice ring and froze that, assuring that the cherries would stay at the bottom of the mold and be on the top when it was turned over into the punch bowl. Then she added the rest of the mixture which was lemonade (so as not to dilute the punch) which had been tinted with green food coloring. When it was frozen, it was supposed to look like a green holiday wreath with red berries.
On New Year’s Eve, we scattered bowls of snacks around the living room and set the dining table with all manner of appetizers. We mixed the red punch in a large glass bowl and set it on the table surrounded by glass cups, but waited until a few guests arrived to add the ice ring that did indeed look like a wreath. It was beautiful in the red punch.
We served punch to the first few guests and then sat in the living room for about twenty minutes before the next family arrived. By the time their coats were off and we were ready to serve them punch, the green ice ring had started to melt.
Unfortunately, the green food coloring melting into the red punch created a shade of gray which looked an awful lot like dirty scrub water. My horrified mother wisked the punch bowl into the kitchen. We found some empty jars to store the punch, and because there was no room in the refrigerator, we placed them in an old coal cellar in the basement to stay cold. My mother quickly mixed some new punch and added ordinary ice cubes.
During the next week, every day my frugal father tried to convince us to drink the punch, but ---although there was really nothing wrong with it except the color ---it was just too awful to look at. My father told us to close our eyes. My mother suggested we donate it to the local school for the blind, but eventually, most of it went down the drain.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)