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A Family Secret Revealed

Childhood is a time to learn skills we’ll need for the rest of our lives. Sharing, turn-taking and responsibility come to mind first, but did you realize that giving a child a designated bedtime provides that child with the opportunity to develop negotiating skills? Bargaining to be able to stay up past that bedtime is a rite of passage.  As a child, I learned and exploited variables that affected my negotiations. It was important to know my audience. Cajoling a babysitter or grandparent to let me stay up late was always easier than my parents. My negotiating tactics were more effective during vacations than on school nights. The most difficult bedtime negotiations were trying to convince my parents to let me stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. I had a persuasive argument – it wasn’t a school night and everyone else in the world was doing it.

When I was in elementary school, New Year’s Eve looked like so much fun. There were party hats, noise makers, confetti and hors d’oeuvres, all at a time of day I rarely got to experience. It was magical! When winter break from school began so too did my negotiations to stay up until midnight. I was on my best behavior, offered to do all sorts of chores for no additional money in my allowance and was nice to my younger brother. After an exhausting week of stellar behavior, the negotiations began in earnest. To my great surprise, my parents agreed to let my brother and I stay up until midnight as long as we promised to be in bed by 12:30 a.m. It was a deal. We were so excited! My mom got us party hats, really loud noise makers and even bought a box of frozen, “fancy” hors d’oeuvres: pigs in blankets.

In the 1970s, before every appliance in the house had a digital clock, we had a grandfather clock in the living room. It was a huge clock that chimed the hours of the day. No matter where you were in the house you could hear it. When December 31st arrived we listened to the grandfather clock tick away the hours until midnight. Our excitement grew. Our mouths watered at the idea of eating tiny hot dogs wrapped in buttery dough at a time when we would have been asleep.  When the clock finally struck twelve, we all shouted “Happy New Year,” waved our noisemakers around and stuffed our faces with greasy snacks. At 12:30, we went to our rooms without argument and fell asleep like all good children do.

Many years later, when I was a newlywed, I told Oregano the story of my New Year’s Eve negotiation triumph and I made us pigs in blankets. The next day I called my parents to wish them a happy new year and they asked what Oregano and I had done to celebrate. I told them that we had a quiet New Year’s Eve at home with the traditional pigs in blankets.

“Traditional pigs in blankets?” my dad asked.

“Yes. Don’t you remember? In elementary school you let us stay up past our bedtime on New Year’s Eve. We always had pigs in blankets around midnight. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.”

“We have something to tell you,” he said tentatively.  “You definitely had pigs in blankets, but you didn’t really stay up until midnight.”

“What do you mean? I distinctly remember the big clock chiming 12 times. I remember sitting on the floor in front of it waiting for the two hands to reach the twelve.” I was confused.

“The clock did strike 12. We knew you could tell time so we couldn’t lie to you about what time was on the clock. While you were busy playing during the day, we turned the clock back two hours. It was really 10 o’clock,” he said while laughing.

“So all those years I thought I was ringing in the new year I was really celebrating the final 2 hours of the old year?” I was stunned at this news. My confidence in my negotiating skills had been shattered.

“Yes,” he said without a shred of remorse.

“You only did this the first time you let us stay up, right?” I asked, but was afraid of the response.

“No, it worked so well we did this until you were almost a teenager.” He sounded quite pleased with himself.

“Years?! You perpetrated this fraud on your own child for years?! And, you’re just telling me now!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was bad enough to think I had been fooled once, but to learn that I had been bamboozled until 1983 was astounding.  “Don’t you feel even a little bit guilty for tricking me for all those years?”

There was a long pause.

“Nope, I don’t feel guilty at all. In fact, I think it was quite clever. You thought you were staying up late so we didn’t have to listen to any bargaining or whining and we got to have a peaceful New Year’s Eve. It was a win-win situation.”

I could just imagine the impish grin he had on his face while finally revealing this family secret. Now that I am older,  I have reached the age when staying up until midnight to ring in the new year is not a novelty. In fact, some years we’ve even fallen asleep before midnight, but it was always with a tummy full of pigs in blankets.

**Whether you stay up until midnight or just believe you have stayed up until midnight to ring in 2013, I hope the upcoming year is filled with health, happiness and laughter. ** 

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

43 responses »

  1. This reminds me of a story. There were six of us on a cruise through the Panama Canal. The two salient people for this story is one of my friends and her mother. We were eating lavishly and well on the cruise, and somehow the dinner conversation turned to some of the unusual things we had eaten.
    I told the story of the first time I had rabbit meat. I was a guest in the home of a friend’s parents, and they were serving it. Not sure if I would like it or not, I did the polite thing and ate my dinner unflinchingly – and lived to tell about it.
    My friend responded to that saying, “I have never eaten rabbit meat, and I never would!”
    To which her mother said, “Oh yes, you have. Do you remember all the times you ate ‘Australian Chicken’ when you were growing up? It wasn’t chicken.”
    My friend was horrified – and not sure if she was more horrified about having had rabbit meat, or that her mother had lied to her all those years.
    I guess it happens, and parents do what they have to do. Even so….. hmmmm.

    • Thanks for sharing that funny story. Guess I’m not the only one who was duped for years and years.

      You have to admire the parental creativity. I’m not sure which I’d be madder at, finding out I ate rabbit (more than once) or finding out I’d been lied to about it.

  2. I would have felt betrayed too! But I also just made a mental note to remember that for when I have my own kids.

  3. Love it! Mini weenies in a blanket (dipped in ice cold ketchup) were a tradition at my house, too. I can taste ’em now!

  4. Love the story…pigs in a blanket are such a wonderful comfort food from childhood! I prefer mine without cheese, though. (Which I believe is the “proper way.”) : ) Sounds like you are the product of clever parents!

    • Actually, I prefer my pigs without cheese, too. I just thought it was one of the more photogenic options for pigs in blankets.

      I definitely think my upbringing contributed to my sense of humor.

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Happy New Year!

  5. We haven’t made it to midnight since ringing in 2001. This year we barely made it to 9. Happy New Year! Great story.

  6. I suspect this came out of the Parents Handbook of the time. My parents spiked our soda so we would go to sleep and they could join the adult party down the street.

    Happy New Year.

  7. Oh, my, Pappy! Punked by the parents! You didn’t check in on Guy Lombardo or Dick Clark? My favorite memories of New Year’s Eve were the bowl games – especially the Astro-Bluebonnett Bowl from the Astrodome in Houston. My younger brother and I would watch the game downstairs (usually ended around 11:00 pm) while the parents partied upstairs. Then, we would watch the ball on TV and go to bed. I was fortunate, my mother began letting me stay up to watch the Carson Show once in a while when I was around 9 or 10, so New Year’s Eve was no big deal.

  8. I hear a sitcom looming in the future; the family that lies to each other doesn’t know the truth from a pumpkin. Wait; that’s the wrong holiday.

    I need lessons in my cliches.

    Maybe in 2013… have a healthy, humorous one!

  9. Your parents are just as bad as mine. I’m hysterical. At least we know where our tough natured personalities come from. 😉

  10. Great story, Paprika. And I have the perfect revenge for you! you can start lying to your parents!

    Happy New Year, Paprika!

  11. My mother always let me stay up. The problem was that sometimes I fell asleep anyhow. If they went out to a relative’s party, they would take me along but it was still a crap shoot as to whether I’d be awake at midnight or sleeping on a couch somewhere. By the way, adulthood hasn’t changed that. Except for the years that we did a formal dinner dance (it’s really tacky to fall asleep there!), it isn’t unusual if the last thing I remember is 11:30! Now the pigs in blankets is a nice twist. We didn’t do that but it sounds yummy (and naughty!). Happy New Year!

    • It’s nice that your mom let you stay up. If my parents hadn’t changed the clock I probably would have been asleep before midnight.

      New Year’s Eve is the only time of year we have pigs in blankets. Now that we’re older we eat them for dinner instead of at midnight. I know I ate them and went right to bed as a kid, but the thought of doing that now makes me sick.

      Happy New Year!

  12. Oh how funny! We parents can be sneaky sometimes!

  13. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year and many decades of pigs-in-a-blanket: )

  14. My parents would make us go to bed regular time, wake us up at 11:45, permit us to bag cooking pots and lids out side and then we went back to bed at 12:05…at least you got pigs in a blanket! LOL

    • You may not have had the pigs in blankets, but at least you actually celebrated the new year at the correct time. I guess no one has the perfect childhood 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  15. I knew there was something shady about your Dad… 🙂 Happy New Year to you and Oregano.

  16. I hate to burst your bubble, Paprika, but they kept another secret from you as well. Those hot dogs in buns aren’t pigs in the blanket (although some do refer to them as such). That designation should go to Polish Golabki (stuffed cabbage – hamburger, pork and rice, or ground turkey and rice – wrapped in cabbage leaves). A former neighbor, from Poland, taught my mother how to make it and I just used her recipe to make some yesterday.

    Cheers! Happy New Year – nearly 10 hours early and counting. Look forward to your delightful posts in 2013.

    • I knew the pigs in the pigs in blankets were really hot dogs. What really had me confused was Kosher baloney. I knew baloney came from pigs, so I thought Kosher baloney came from Jewish pigs. Pig or no pig, I bet your Golabki were delicious.

      Happy New Year 🙂

      • Actually, I prefer the hamburger and pork mixture to the healthier version with ground turkey. It was wonderful. Thank you, Paprika.
        I’ll have to ask Dave about Kosher baloney. Never heard of it. Dave said he has. 🙂

      • What I learned about Kosher baloney, when my parents and grandparents stopped laughin at the idea of a Jewish pig, is that Kosher baloney is made from beef, not pork. I still think it is more fun to think of a Jewish pig wearing a yarmulke.

  17. I guess the real message here is that the hippies were right in the 60’s, you can’t trust adults….however, I wonder how accurate your dad’s recollection is….in reality, how could two hours be “taken” from you without you knowing it, given the scheduling of tv programming and that you would have been watching Howdie Doodie or Kaptain Kangaroo at the wrong time…I would ask your Dad to provide concrete evidence or not allow his charade to continue thereby taking away his joy in claiming to have put one over on you. Additionally, the next time you have his birthday celebration, adjust the clocks and claim, “My, how time flies, we must be leaving now….” just before lighting the candles on the cake. Of course, all this reminds me of how “time flew by” in the north end of Harrison School building on one particular afternoon….(an event to be shared at a later time, if you don’t recall)

    • Bob you’d be surprised to learn how helpful a Sony VHS VCR can be. Or shall I say was.

    • I’m certain he is telling the truth. This was back in the day before 24 hour cable TV. We didn’t watch a lot of TV at night, so I’m not sure I would have noticed. This was also before I knew about the ball dropping in Times Square. That would have been difficult to fake. I doubt he’d be able to pull that trick on me in this day and age, but if given the chance, I know he’d try.

      I’m not sure I recall the Harrison School event you are talking about. Does it involve a chicken?


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