Ghosts of New Year's Past

New Year's Eve 1991. From left: my dad (David), brother (John), great-grandmother (Nanny), me and my grandfather (Papou).

For me - and I think for many - the coming of a new year brings hope for the future along with memories of the past. 

I found this photo while clearing images from my phone. I don't remember this moment, but I love the picture. I love how happy we all look - how natural our smiles are - and I love the people in it.

It was taken by my either my mom or grandmother (since neither is in the photo it had to be one of them) at my grandparent's house in Kennett Square, PA. My dad, David, is on the far left smiling at my 9-year-old brother, John. Next to him, my great-grandmother, Nanny, is tooting her kazoo while 5-year-old me sits on my grandfather, Papou’s, lap. It's December 1991, going on January 1992. 

I have no memories from that moment or that trip, but I have countless memories of the people.

My great-grandmother, Nanny who passed in 2009 at the age of 98, is someone I think of often. She was a picture of health and longevity until the very end of her life. Every winter she came down to visit us in Florida and stayed for at least two weeks, sometimes longer if the weather up north was particularly nasty. During her visits I knew that every day when I walked home from the school bus stop I would find Nanny waiting for me on our front porch swing, smiling as I approached. She was the woman who taught me to slow down and listen to “the birdies” in the first light of morning (I couldn't say my Rs when I was a kid, so we listened to the “boodies”).

My grandfather, Papou (who also passed in 2009 at the age of 78) was the American Dream - the son of immigrants who built a large family and a successful business. I remember him as the grandfather who would have tickle fights with me on the couch and play hide and seek under a pillow fort one day, then be apoplectic when I beat him at tennis or worse, refused to play tennis, the next. He was a walking paradox who taught me that love should’t overlook flaws, but it should accept them.

My dad is a rock. Regardless of what's happening in the world, you can find him every morning quietly sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a copy of the New York Times. He's the man who taught me to define my own thoughts because he never defined them for me. 

My brother was my first friend and eternal protector. He is now 33 years old with a family of his own. I’ll drive to Tampa next week to visit him, his wife and little girl. We'll laugh at his vivacious 2-year-old daughter and tell stories from our past. We'll cook dinner and talk about our hopes for the new year. 

I'll tell him that my only wish for 2017 is that it be full of more moments like the one represented in this photo - unposed, unprepared and perfect.

Happy new year! Check back next week for more stories from the road...