Luis R. Pérez Lasalle

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New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is a very special day in Puerto Rico. For as long as I can remember, my family has tried to celebrate it together as often as possible. The day usually starts off busy as my mom, dad and I clean every inch of the house. As night arrives, I finish dressing in what I call my “formal wear,” a long sleeved black dress shirt, dark Docker pants and my only pair of dress shoes. I dislike over dressing but my grandmother, Lillian, would always say: “Hay que despedir el año bonito.” So I don’t mind dressing up like this at least once a year.

I pause for a minute as I remember that and hurry outside to greet any guests who arrive while my parents are dressing for the party. My uncle José, we call him Jochy, is already outside smoking one of his cigars. He is dressed in a colorful polo shirt he got on one of his many trips abroad and he is reading one of the many novels he owns. His cigar smoke covers up the plethora of smells that emanate from the kitchen which have become a tradition every year. He looks at me and smiles as he puts the novel away.

“Wow, you bringing a date tonight?” he asks with a grin he uses when he is joking.

I laugh a bit and shake my head before heading back inside to check on the food. As I get closer to the kitchen my nose is bombarded with all the smells that a traditional Christmas season brings to the island: arróz con gandules, pernil asado, habichuelas, tembleque and finally to wash it all down my mom’s special coquito which is so famous my family members come as soon as she makes it to take a bottle or two with them.

I check the stove as my dad walks out of his room dressed in his finest clothes. “Where is your tio?” He asks me before heading out the door as I point to the balcony.  I check everything one last time before heading out the door as the first guests of the night arrive.

Time passes and finally the house is full. My uncle, Yiyo, his wife, Zory, and my uncle, Jerón, are joking with my dad, Luis, talking politics as usual.

“This year we will win without a doubt,” bellows my uncle Yiyo, a very large man. My dad and uncle Jerón nod in agreement.

“This year we have a good candidate. It’s in the bag,” replies my uncle Jerón as my dad smiles and slaps him on the shoulder.

“As long as he isn’t caught drunk again,” jokingly comments my dad as my uncles burst into a loud chorus of laughs.

My cousins, Carlos (my age), Alex (Carlos’ brother and the middle child of the three) and Jóse (The eldest cousin) are all holding their respective wives, Egnis, Alexandra and Mare, as they wait for the New Year to arrive. My only female cousin, Odalis, and her husband Joel have already left for their church’s activity. The family doesn’t mind as they have spent most of the night at our house.

My grandparents Margo and Mingo are wide awake despite it being nearly midnight; this is the one night a year where they keep themselves awake well into the morning to welcome the New Year with their family. My mother Jeannette, my mother’s sister, Aunt Isabelle, are busy admiring my mother’s decorating abilities around the house. “You really outdid yourself this year,” comments my aunt as she eyes the tree.

My mom proudly smiles as she replies, “It took a while to find the blue orchideas but it was worth it. That and the pascuas really make it stand out.”

As I go check the official time on the TV, I admire this year’s tree. My mother always picks one color for the tree and buys all the decorations of that color. This year it’s blue. Blue ornaments are placed around the tree with care. Blue lights twinkle from within the branches and blue flowers adorn most of the tree’s outer branches. Finally, I hear my aunt yelling, “It’s almost time!” as she dashes for the kitchen to get the boiling water.

My grandmother Lillian started this tradition when I was a child. At midnight she tosses boiling water into the yard to, “Limpiar al año nuevo y espantar a las cosas malas.” Even with her absence the tradition continues as my mother and aunt get the pans of water ready.

As the clock strikes midnight we all scream “Feliz Año Nuevo!” and the boiling water hits the street in front of our house. I turn to all my family and the hug fest begins, another tradition that has always been there. We hug each family member and wish each other a great new year. A loud explosion in the horizon signals the beginning of the fireworks from all over the surrounding streets. We always have a great view of all the action. As the sky is filled with blasts and color I stare at an empty seat in the balcony, this was the first New Year’s without my grandmother, Lillian. I hug my dad once more and continue watching the fireworks as another year has gone and a new one is about to begin.

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Your uncle Jochy sounds like a boss, I want to be that guy in my future family reunions, reading a novel and smoking a cigar haha. I find it easy to sympathize with your story, we’re always asked about our girlfriends in family reunions! We’re being indoctrinated to chase tail! Your description of the food banquet typically served at family dinners is evil, I could almost taste them with my wishful imagination. Really enjoyed the description of your families tradition and I empathized with your custom of everybody hugging eachother, bringing good vibes for the New Year. My family also does the same thing on New Years, we all make sure that we hug every member of our family when the New Year starts. Beautiful piece.

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