Friday, January 2, 2015

A Happy New Year

Trying to make fire fly.
If it's New Year's Eve, we must burn down the house. Or so it seemed with my family this year. Typically, my sister and her family have returned to their island home after Christmas to celebrate the New Year there; but this year, they broke the tradition to stay here. Naturally, we tried to incorporate as many of my brother-in-law's family's traditions into the party, and it went off with a ... sorry for this ... a bang!

My nephew and the burning puppet.
First, the puppet. Actually, the tradition of the puppet comes from an Ecuadorian family that Enrique, my brother-in-law, grew up with in Puerto Rico. I'm not sure at what point it was incorporated into his own family's tradition, but for as long as I've known him, they've jumped the puppet. The idea is to build a puppet that is representative of something bad from the year, not necessarily personal, to jump over from one year to the next, from the bad to the good. In Enrique's family, global events take precedence, so the puppet usual reflects this. After some discussion and a split vote, we decided to create a puppet of both Isis and Ebola. Commence the building of the puppet. Using a wrapping paper cardboard center, a hanger, newspapers, and an Internet picture, we fashioned the puppet. More importantly, as we taped, we stuffed bricks of firecrackers into the head and core so that we could really try to obliviate both Isis and Ebola. In Puerto Rico last year for New Year's, I had the chance to jump the puppet on a lovely, balmy tropical evening. Of course, in Chicago, the weather was a little chillier ... sub-zero actually. But that did not stop the tropical birds! We pulled out the fire pit, built a roaring fire, and used it to start the puppet's burn. Once it cracked off its many rounds of incendiary devices, it burnt low enough for all of us to jump from 2014 into 2015 leaving behind all that was bad of the year in the ashes of  the fire.

Eating grapes in the kitchen.
Another tradition brought to us here in the North this year was the eating of the grapes. One grape for each stroke of the midnight clock. Honestly, I have been in Puerto Rico several times for the New Year, and I have never seen this tradition carried out. But I may also have been outside, drinking champagne, and away from the old people who are more likely to gather in the kitchen and eat grapes. But we packaged them up and at the strike of midnight, gobbled up what is a Spanish tradition to bring prosperity to the New Year and to ward off general evil and witches. I'm always happy to ward off general evil. Witches? Yeah, I'm not too concerned about them as the Irish of me isn't so sure that they or the banshees aren't better to be a part of my life. I know to take care with concern to their delicate temperaments, so I'm safe from their wrath and protected by their charms.

One balloon that flew.
Every summer, my sister, Enrique, and the kids are in Chicago for the 4th of July. At that time, the boys do their best to blow up my mother's lot. I love fireworks, but I have to tell you that with so many and so close, I usually retreat to the air conditioning. All of that smoke is so hard on what has become a problematic asthma. Even with the Arctic blast, we also managed to conjure up a mini-4th with mortars and blasts that thundered in the New Year. Last summer, we discovered these precious lanterns that once lit sailed up in the sky. At the firework store across the state line ... yes, we are little law breakers ... we found gigantic balloons. Enrique insisted that we get one for each member of the family to set sail in the New Year. Of course, the conditions between the two months are so variant that the sail of said balloons was quite limited. Those big ass balloons just wouldn't take off from we presumed was the cold. One made it. Another, hit the tree and burned. I thought that we were going to burn grandma's house down. And one 4th of July, we very nearly did.
Burning Tree
I awoke in the middle of the night after a particularly explosive 4th, went to the kitchen for a glass of water and saw smoke in the window of the garage door. I pushed the button for the garage door to open and flames shot out. Very near to my car which is never parked in my mother's garage, three plastic garbage containers were on fire. One was already melted to the ground. I ran to get my mother as she is the most level-headed of the gang, who immediately shot up and said, 'I'll get my slippers.' With the balloons, I thought that we were bound to have another such event ... I tried the outside hose, but it was frozen. Enrique told me not to worry about. The fire would extinguish on its own and the tree was too cold to catch fire. I suppose he was right as the tree stands and only the deflated balloon is left in the tree, which we couldn't reach with the rake.

At the end of the fuse, I doubt if any crumb of badness from last year is left for the Moran/Ibanez households. We have burned the shit out of it. I can't but think that this year, 2015, is going to be a good time because we certainly had a blast making a start of it.

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