Saturday, December 31, 2011
I have yet to experience a New Year’s Eve party better than my grandparents’ annual party.
Even in college, I would go out to bars with my friends and live it up like a college student, and then when the bars would close I would head back to my grandparents’ house because the party was still going on there.
I remember talking with my best friend, Matt, in high school about what we were going to do for New Years that year. I mentioned going to my grandparents and he kind of lit up and smiled and said, “Are we doing that again this year?” He wanted to. I wanted to.
To understand the epic nature of these annual shindigs, you have to first understand my grandparents. First, there is Grandma Norma, who many people have come to know through her comedy career with the Mystery Hour. Grandma Norma, who most people know simply as G-Norm, her rapper name, most simply works in two modes, fun loving and worry. Fun loving trumps worry most of the time, especially on New Year’s Eve. She will be darned if anyone is going to stay up later than her, or if she is not facilitating a good time. Also, what she is most known for is her hugging, she is a hugger. You think you know a hugger, but Grandma Norma would outlast that person in a hug off to the death.
Grandpa Orrie is more of a silent partner on this night. He is as laid back as they come. Between Grandma Norma’s worry and Grandpa Orrie’s anti-worry, the reach equilibrium as a couple. Grandpa Orrie worked for years as a teacher and coach, so he is in charge of gently harassing kids, and making sure they stay in line with a distinctive look. He is also the brawn behind their famous homemade ice cream, which makes an appearance on New Years. His most notable characteristic is his ability to sleep through anything and everything. It’s a gift.
They’re the type of grandparents that have always been grandparents to all of our friends as well. They have a unique pull that few people share. The best of all of that comes together on the last night of the year. In fact, Orrie is now 96 and Norma is 90, and they live in the same house and still put on the same party, I just haven’t been there in a few years.
The cast of characters would be most all of the cousins and they’re lucky friends. People would come in and out as they went to other events that night. Back when I was small, and their house was reciprocatingly big, the possibilities seemed endless. There were always games, I seem to remember a lot of Boggle and Twister, then Balderdash and Scattegories as we got older. They usually involved consequences for losing, which often meant calling a girl you liked, but only Brad, my cousin, was gutsy enough to ever follow through on it. They also have a basement full of possibilities out of the eyes of adults, complete with a dress up clothes closet that often led to performances.
I would also try to set a new record each year in how many times I could get my brother, Scott, to pee his pants in one night. The standing record is 8. My mom would always pack a lot of extra pairs or underwear. Now, continence has settled in for Scott and I’m afraid my record won’t ever be broken.
Then, at midnight, we would bang pots and pans for as loud and as hard as we could, while all the while, Grandma Norma would be giggling and Grandpa Orrie would be somehow, somehow, sleeping in the next room. That signaled more of the beginning of the party as the end because we would stay up as long as we can, sometimes until 5 am. Take that, “partying” college students. Ain’t no party like a G-Norm party, ‘cuz a G-Norm party don’t stop. The parties still go on without me as my cousins still bring their kids and my aunt and uncles still come by to bang on pots. I always call at midnight to hear the madness.
My new New Years tradition is the annual First Night in Springfield, which is a great event put on by the city with a ton of entertainment options downtown. The Skinny Improv always gets to perform, and it’s the only night where the thought creeps in, “Wait, are we rock stars?” We perform at the Gillioz Theatre to sold out crowds, meaning a thousand people at each show (we do two). They’re the easier shows as people are just excited to laugh, and they are really fun. By the end, as the full house is cheering, the thought starts creeping in. Then, I notice that I was off a button as I was buttoning my shirt before the show and I realize that no, no, I am not a rock star, but it was fun for awhile.
This year, I then went to a party with Michelle at a friend’s house, and popped in a couple of others. There are so many expectations with New Year’s Eve being an awesome time, with the requisite disappointment, that it’s a success whenever it’s a good night. This was definitely a good night.
But, I don’t know if my best New Year’s Eve parties await me in the future, I’ve already had them when I was in a small ranch style home giggling with my grandparents.