Go back to the night before my flight to San Francisco. I was sitting in my kitchen when I suddenly heard a gunshot. Given where I live, this is not out of the question at all. When I left the house to go out for drinks later in the night, I discovered that it wasn’t a gunshot but a rock through glass. Specifically, the glass of my car’s driver side window. I got Grinched! USAA took great care of me and repaired the glass while I was in San Francisco. A word to the wise: if you can qualify for USAA, switch to USAA! A great friend drove me to a rental car office so I could get to Richmond for my flight. (USAA paid for the rental, ahem.) So when I got back to Richmond, I didn’t have a car. I had to rent one. Again. It was two days after Christmas, I was lonely, and there were still hundreds of tiny chards of glass in the pockets and folds of my car interior.

At 10:00pm, with my brother’s blessing and admiration, I bought a one-way flight to Boston. At 8:00am, I was driving back to Richmond to catch a flight. Somewhere between Charlottesville and Richmond, I called my grandparents’ land line and prayed (really, prayed) that whoever answered would not be upset with me. After all, I had been instructed not to join them, given my grandfather’s condition, and, rather, encouraged to go to San Francisco for the holiday.

My mom answered. She quietly freaked out. She made up a lie about meeting an old friend for lunch and met me at Logan Airport. My mom is perfectly capable of pulling off little white lies because she is a little slice of heaven on earth who wants everyone to be happy, but my dad had no reason not to believe her. And there we were, driving up 1A along the coast of the North Shore by 11:00am.

Given the state of my poor grandfather’s health, I really didn’t want to do a full surprise for him. Dear God, just imagine. Obituary reads: “…sudden heart failure upon the arrival of third eldest granddaughter…” My mom walked in with me, my dad looked at me like I was the living dead, and my grandfather shed some tears. It was a heart-warming moment in Malay family history, thankfully not a heart-stopping moment.

It was just a relaxing New Years in Marblehead, MA! It is a historic township about half an hour north of Boston, with a small harbor lined by several beautiful yacht clubs. Large mansions worth millions and the yacht clubs’ tennis courts fill the “Neck,” a peninsula connected to downtown Marblehead by a long causeway. While I would feel comfortable characterizing the community as older, affluent, and “waspy,” Marblehead, like any other place, has its own kind of “rednecks” who pump gas into 40 foot yachts and cut scrod at the local grocery. People are overwhelmingly friendly, no matter what they do for a living.

My mom and I reveled in the variety of fresh fish and shellfish at New England prices, and my dad and I reveled in the variety of Irish liquors my grandfather has stashed in the pantry. We all reveled in NPR, bowl games, long [freezing cold] walks around Marblehead neck, and my grandparents’ library of classic lit. I actually read a Nancy Drew in a few hours one night!

Two of the nights, my dad and I continued our cocktail hour in downtown Marblehead at Maddie’s, a dive bar throughout most of the year, a popular bar for kids home from college in summers and on holidays, and most importantly, the only bar. Bless his heart for trying, but my dad did not need to be so cool as to let locals take his seat to hit on me. Oh dad! But maybe he knew what he was doing– that’s how we got a ride home one night.

For New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a small dinner with my grandfather on the eary side and see to it that he would get to bed safely, then eat a very late dinner at the Landing Restaurant on the waterfront and ring in 2007 with live Irish music and a midnight champagne toast. My grandfather loved it. We all sat around telling stories for hours! And the Landing was the most fun New Year’s I have ever had. My mom and I danced, and my dad and I drank, and we all ate… and ate.

As I said, my mom does not drink. So it came as a huge surprise to me and my dad when one of us said, “Hey, drive by Maddie’s!” and she put her car in reverse and drove backwards for at least three blocks! (Closed before 1.) She then proceeded to do donuts in the roundabout at the center of the downtown area. There was no one on the road, but we were just waiting for either a cop to show up or for one of us to vom to stop her.

A very Happy 2007 indeed.

This is the causeway.

Marblehead from the causeway.

Greystone Beach. My grandparents live in this small neighborhood with this beautiful beach, just a two block walk from this. In the winter, my grandfather used to tie our sleds to the back of his red pickup truck and pull us through the neighborhood! In the summer, the beach is great for bouldering and playing in tidepools. It’s not a sand beach but a stone beach– small, round, dark stones that get quite hot in the sun. It’s not a comfortable beach for laying out (unless you have a chair) and it’s definitely not a comfortable beach for swimming– the water stays frigid even through August. But it is our favorite beach!

Another view toward the neighborhood. Great snowstorm.