A Fateful Kiss on New Year's Eve

Thirteen didn’t seem like a lucky number, but Dad had no other choice.

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A Fateful Kiss on New Year's Eve

Most people think thirteen is unlucky, but not our family. The way my dad always told the story, my four siblings and I wouldn’t be here if he’d been led to any other number.

Back in 1941, Dad spent his Saturday nights at “The Nixon,” a dance hall on the corner of 52nd and Market streets in Philadelphia. He could dance the waltz and do the jitterbug just as well as Fred Astaire. The girls dressed up and styled their hair like Ginger Rogers. Some wore silver slippers, while the more skilled dancers wore gold. In those days, when a guy wanted to dance with a girl, he had to sign up for a song on her dance card ahead of time–and every guy wanted to sweep Peg Oestreich off her feet.

Dad was chatting with his buddy when he first saw her walk into the dance hall. Stunningly beautiful, with dark brown eyes and shoulder-length brown hair. Her slippers? Gold. Dad waited in the crowd to sign her card, and they danced to “The Anniversary Waltz.” He was completely smitten. If only he could kiss her, just once!

New Year’s Eve was coming up. Maybe he could snag Peg for the midnight dance! Then he could give her a New Year’s kiss. Dad spent every Saturday counting songs and figured out which dance would fall on the magic moment–number thirteen.

“That can’t be right,” Dad said to himself. “That’s bad luck!” Had he made a mistake? Should he sign up for the twelfth or fourteenth? What if he was too early, or too late? On New Year’s Eve, Dad ran to the dance hall, but Peg was already surrounded. By the time he got to sign her dance card, only one choice remained. Thirteen.

At 11:55, the bandleader called their song. “Harvest Moon” began to play. Dad took Peg’s hand. At that moment, he didn’t care if the song lasted until midnight–he was happy just to dance with her.

Then it happened. 10, 9, 8… The entire dance hall counted down. 3, 2, 1… HAPPY NEW YEAR! Peg looked into his eyes, and Dad delivered the perfect New Year’s kiss.

Mom and Dad started “going steady” that night, which led to 44 years of marriage, five children, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren–a growing family that all began with one “unlucky” number.

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