Here comes another year.
— Ogden Nash
Obviously, Nash wasn’t referring to the transition between 2019 and 2020 when he wrote the poem “Good Riddance, But Now What?” Lately, though, those are the exact sentiments I’m seeing on Facebook and hearing in person. Many of my friends are bidding a relieved farewell to a year fraught with disappointment at best, tragedy at worst. And they are cautiously, almost timidly, hopeful of better days to come.
Here’s the poem in its entirety:
Come, children, gather ’round my knee;
Something is about to be.
Tonight’s December thirty-first;
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall. Hark! It’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year.
I’ve been an Ogden Nash fan since childhood. As an only child and early reader, I thought of him, along with Edward Lear and the Brothers Grimm, as my imaginary uncles. Nash, especially, seemed to speak my language. Looking back, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that he gave me my first lessons in humor.
A child need not be very clever
To learn that “Later, dear” means “Never.”
I remember proudly informing my grade-school classmates that Nash was the author of the shortest poem in the world, “Fleas.”
But I digress. Back to the occasion at hand, another New Year. For those still reeling from the roller coaster of 2019, here’s one more pearl of wisdom from Uncle Ogden.
A good way to forget today’s sorrows
Is by thinking hard about tomorrow’s.
Of course, I share that with tongue firmly in cheek. I’m one of those annoyingly cheerful optimists who reveres January 1 as the most auspicious date of the year, celebrated with joy and hope.
My mother always said, “Whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll be doing for the rest of the year.” So, every January 1st, I make sure to fill my day with love and laughter, positive thoughts and productive deeds. And food, glorious food.
Today, my mother and I will join family and friends at my cousin Betty’s home for the traditional breakfast enjoyed by many local Japanese. First and foremost is ozoni, or mochi soup. Depending on which region of Japan your family hails from, the soup stock may be chicken, fish, or miso; our family uses baby clams. The broth is complemented with mizuna (a Japanese green) and vegetables such as daikon (turnip) or carrots. Some cooks include lotus root slices to represent the wheel of life. Mochi is added to the simmering broth just before serving; you have to eat at least one of the hot, sticky globs, to ensure strength for the coming year. As a child, I struggled to finish my bowl, but today I’ll probably polish off two or three.
My favorite New Year’s food is kuromame, a sweet side dish of simmered black beans with chestnuts and konbu seaweed. Because the Japanese words for the ingredients are similar to words describing various attributes, the beans represent hard work and good health, the chestnuts mean prosperity, and konbu is associated with joy. Some people say you should eat one bean for each year of your life; others say you just have to consume an odd number. Since I consider thirteen to be my lucky number (I was born on a Friday the 13th), that’s how many I eat. At the first sitting, anyway.
After breakfast and a likely nap, Mom looks forward to the 70th Kohaku Uta Gassen (Japan’s Red and White Song Contest) on KIKU TV this evening. Watching the annual musical battle between the sexes is another cherished childhood memory. But tonight, I think I’ll forego the television in favor of a good book, maybe even one of Uncle Ogden’s.
May today be your best day ever, so that the rest of the year will follow suit. And don’t forget to duck.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.