A New Year's Tradition
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I grew up with all my cousins on my mom’s side. My Lola (grandma) used to brag to everyone that she had a dozen grandchildren. She’d always wanted a dozen children but was only blessed with four children, so a dozen grandchildren fulfilled one of her dreams in a way.
On New Year’s Day, we’d gather at Lola and Lolo’s house, even after Lolo passed away, even after we were all grown and some of us living far away, up until Lola passed away in 2001. Lola would hold a New Year’s Raffle. The raffle started small—if I remember correctly, you could win silver dollars with the top prize being twenty dollars. Later, Lola would increase the amount so everyone won $20 with a top prize of $50. Or she would add different prizes to the mix.
Everyone always won something. But the point wasn’t the prizes. It was the gathering together of family. After the hecticness of Christmas, it was nice to have a meal together, to catch up with everyone.
My Lola was my second mother and I miss her every day. I miss her laugh, I miss her bright red lipstick, I miss her lecturing, I miss her love for chocolate, and, most of all, I miss her stories. (Chocolate note: after she passed away, I took several of her sweaters back to Boston to remember her and keep me warm. One cardigan still smelled like her and I wore it every day at home. Yes, I found a chocolate wrapper in one of the pockets.) Several years ago I tried to get the family together for New Year’s to reinstate her tradition but it’s harder now that we’re grown and (some of us) with children of our own. I managed to get us together on New Year’s once with my cousin’s girls and my girls and we did a mini-raffle.
This year, I thought why not use technology? So I arranged with my sister and her twins and sent them prizes. Since they are only two years old, we decided to send books (of course!) instead of money. They opened them up while we FaceTimed with them and they were delighted. From my Lola, I sent them Where is Maisy? by Lucy Cousins* and Karen Katz’ Vroom, Vroom, Trucks! Yes, they love lift-the-flap books right now. (** I've added Amazon affiliate links to the site to offset the cost of the blog. Any extra money will go toward books to review and/or giveaways.)
Not wanting to leave my other nephews out, I sent them Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack (shocker, I know, as we love Ben Hatke. BTW, the cover was just revealed for Book 2, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, which will be released September 2017. We can't wait!) and CityBlock by Chris Franceschelli and Peskimo. It’s a spin on the Alphablock series but with vehicles since Gummy loves trains and construction vehicles now. My nine year old nephew was still in the middle of reading Mighty Jack as we video-chatted with them—a sure sign that he’s enjoying the book! Technology is wonderful!
And for my bookworm girls? On New Year's morning we raffled off Ponyo and Totoro pillow case covers. And, thanks to all the great recommendations from the Bookstagram community, I also got them Illuminature by Rachel Williams and Carnovsky (a book with 3 varying images depending on which color lens you use) and Midnight Creatures by Helen Friel (an amazing feat of paper engineering that shows animal shadows with a flashlight). All as gifts from my Lola.
Thank you, Lola, for giving me the gift of storytelling and for being my second mom.