Embed from Getty Images
When I was a kid my folks occasionally went to a neighborhood bar on New Year’s Eve. You know the kind, where everybody knew your name, your kid’s names, what you drove, where you went to school/church and if you ate meat on Fridays. They always came back before midnight to ring in the New Year with us kids. They weren’t big party people and my dad used to say New Year’s Eve was amateur night, so if they went out it was only for a few hours and it was close by.
They entrusted our care to a babysitter that lived across the street from us. We thought she was older than dirt but who knows? We were just kids. We knew she came from “the old country” but we didn’t know which one. When we asked my dad he just said it’s shaped like a boot. We didn’t get that at all so we figured it was his attempt at a joke. She always brought her knitting in a fold-up knitting bag and sat on a chair and I swear, she never moved. I mean she moved her arms and knitting needles but I don’t remember her ever rising from the chair or interacting with us. Not that we cared. We could watch TV on the four available channels without input from our dad, who typically ruled the TV with a nod of his head. Yes for Bonanza and Lawrence Welk, no for the Untouchables (for us not him).
We were always already dressed for bed, so I never understood why the babysitter was even there? I guess to watch us watch TV and get our own snacks. My sister and I pretty much ran the show on deciding what to watch and what we were going to do but we always had a dissenter in the group; my brother Kevin. He never wanted to watch what we wanted to watch and we never liked his choices either. He was a real channel flipper. This was in the days when you actually had to walk up to the TV and manually turn a knob. Yeah, it was hard work but sitting on my brother so he wouldn’t keep turning the channel was much harder. Normally, an adult would intervene but I think the “babysitter” must have thought we were playing a game or something and went back to knitting her 100th pair of slipper socks.
On one particular New Year’s Eve while waiting for my folks to come home just before midnight and give us their noisemakers and hats they invariably got from the bar, I heard a loud racket outside about 10 minutes before midnight. I stepped outside on our porch and I saw all seven of the McGurk kids banging pots and pans and making a hell of a lot of noise and it wasn’t even midnight yet. I ran into our kitchen and grabbed some pots and pans and of course, not to be outdone, I started banging the pots together and on the metal railing and even on the cement porch. In the meantime the folks came home, we all yelled happy New Year and my dad walked the babysitter back across the street where presumably, she had a giant boot hand-knitted in her room somewhere or that was my vision anyway. The next morning my mom pulled out a pot to make Cream of Wheat, my sister Diane’s favorite but the pot was so dented up it wouldn’t lay flat on the burner. My mom started laughing–lucky for me.