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  • Phyllis H. Moore

A New Year, A New Tradition

I like to include something new I've researched, at least once, in each novel. In the fourth book of the Meg Miller Cozy Mystery Series, Blue Feather Mystery, Meg is invited to a New Year's Eve party with the Espinozas. She researches traditions for the holiday and discovers a magical custom that approaches the new year with intention and touches every sense. Here is the beginning of Chapter Ten: NEW YEAR’S EVE was

special.... Javier strummed his guitar to reproduce the chimes from a bell tower as they ushered in the New Year. Everyone ate a grape for each strum. The emulated peals represented the months of the upcoming year. There was a low murmur after the sounds as each person around the campfire held a grape in front of them while they named the month and their prediction of suerte, luck.


Lupita later said it was a tradition they would continue. “The guitar chords, the soft, measured voices around the campfire, the deliberate thoughts about the months ahead, and the cool grapes in the palms of our hands were exactly what this tradition was intended to inspire.” Her eyes were moist, and her voice was soft as she held Meg’s hand in her own cool palm. “You have brought Catherine, Ophelia, and Maria back to me. We used to do this every year until Ophelia was gone, but we’d stopped understanding what it meant. How did you know?”


Meg felt a numbing vibration on her hand as Lupita held it, something like the dull current that shocked her on her old coffeemaker. She had a heightened sense of everything around her. The leaves of the trees were individually defined and crisp. The chilled air carried the smoke from the campfire, the aroma of charred oak. Lupita’s shampoo and hand lotion drifted on individual air streams like the written notes on a music staff, visible in the air. The crisp breeze bristled across Meg’s cheeks, the tiny hairs on her face bowing to the breath. The essence of the crisp green grapes still lingered on her tongue.


She wanted to close her eyes, to block out everything so she could focus on the absence of sound. There was a silence between her and Lupita, only broken by a child stepping on twigs and fallen leaves. But there was a host of souls between them—Catherine, Maria, Ophelia, Neal, Liz, Paul, and others Meg couldn’t name. They were all there, a cluster of remembrances. As usual, she had no idea what it meant, but she would always remember how it felt. Ethereal.

“I don’t know,” Meg said. “You Espinozas are magical. I only knew I wanted to buy grapes.”

Lupita threw her head back and laughed. “Ah, Meg, you could be the village curandera. Won’t you please stay?”


Petra looped her arm through her mother’s and smiled at Meg. “You see. I told you Mama would enjoy your grapes. She imagines us living on the edge of the land, water for as far as we can see, in our own world, her village.”


“It’s true, Mija.” Lupita smiled.


“I’m happy to have delivered something I knew absolutely nothing about before now,” Meg said. “It was an inspiration for me also. I’ll carry this with me for every New Year

going forward.” Petra patted Meg’s arm. “We’re all inspired to do the same. So, thank you kindly.”


Lupita ambled with a stately posture toward a seat designated for her. Meg was on the brink of being in the presence of spirits. She could feel the pull but balked at a line she hadn’t crossed. Somehow, as Lupita grasped her hands and talked about the tradition, Meg felt the older woman could see through her fear and taunted her to release the reluctance and cross the line. In due time.


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