Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Prediction Tradition

Growing up, our family had an annual tradition on New Year’s Day. My father, my brother and I would gather around the family room table and put down in writing our predictions for the upcoming year. We would then open the envelope that had been sealed “upon pain of death” from the previous year.

Our predictions were divided into the categories that mattered: sports, entertainment, politics, and personal. We were almost consistently out in left field, though sometimes we'd hit a grounder. We took pains to divide our pithy predictions according to who said what.

The predictions have been squirreled away for years in a box in the house I grew up. Last summer, under the cover of nightfall, I managed to abscond with two years worth of delicious nostalgia from when I was 12 and 13 years old.

Some excerpts:

1973. My brother and I predicted a big earthquake in San Francisco. Dad said no (he was right). I predicted two assassinations though I didn’t say whom. On more important matters, I thought Disneyland would open a new land and that we’d buy our first color TV (I was wrong about Disneyland, right about the TV).

My brother predicted that JRR Tolkien would come out with a new book. My father thought he’d die (he did), while I said someone would make a major live action move out of Lord of the Rings (I was right, too…just 30 years off). And all of us predicted that the Wankel Rotary Engine would catch on big. Does anyone even remember Mazda’s big innovation today?

Oh yes, I also predicted that the US draft would come to an end and that Donny Osmond would play the Oakland Coliseum. Wishful thinking. About Donny that is. The only Jewish note that year: a cryptic three line prediction my father and I wrote: “Arabs No Settle.” Little did we know what was to come later that year at Yom Kippur.

1974: I was the only one who successfully predicted the Oakland would win their third straight World Series (my brother thought they’d lose to Kansas City). As always, we wrongly predicted an earthquake. And I went for the pop-culture gold, naming The Waltons, Family and Kung Fu the top rated shows of 1974. Where are they now?

I rooted for a Beatles reunion; my father voted for Simon and Garfunkle. All of us believed President Nixon would be impeached, but only Dad predicted correctly that he would resign. He also pegged gasoline at a (then) whopping 65 cents a gallon.

Now jaded by 1973’s events, we all predicted a new Arab-Israeli war (this time we were wrong). My brother thought somewhere in the U.S.A. the first black governor would be elected (that 11-year-old had a budding social consciousness, didn't he?) And my father fell back on an annual tradition: forecasting the death of a major Chinese leader (always a good one since none of us kids knew who the leaders in China were anyway).

My father was also sure I’d get a serious girlfriend this year (sorry, Dad, I was holding out for Jody…) He also thought I’d get all A’s (OK, I admit it, I did). But girlfriend and good grades, they don’t go together, Dad, now do they? More realistic: I predicted my acne would clear up (it did, but not until 1977).

We used to have so much fun every year. Maybe this is the year to restart the Blum family tradition of New Year’s predictions with our kids, though I’m not sure if it should be on January 1st or in September, at Rosh Hashana time.

I wonder, though, how our predictions here in Israel, in 2003, will differ from those we made 30 years ago. War and terror and adult concerns like jobs and money will undoubtedly take more of a center stage. For example:

I predict that the US will indeed go to war against Iraq this year, but not until April which will be very inconvenient, scaring off our Pesach guests coming from the States and interfering with our plans for Jody’s big 40th Birthday trip overseas in May.

I predict that, despite the seemingly endless layoffs in the hi-tech sector, I will continue to hold on to my job, at least until July (and hopefully beyond) and that my stock options will go up a whole 25% (now there’s real faith).

I predict Jody and I will balance our household budget in August and get out of overdraft by September!

I predict that Osama Bin-Laden will finally be found, alive and well, sharing a studio apartment with Mullah Omar in Montgomery County, Maryland.

I don’t think that I’ll be getting a new girlfriend this year, though maybe one of the boys will (probably four-and-a-half-year-old Aviv).

And finally, and most important: I predict and I pray that no one else in our family, among our friends, or in our community will die this year from a terror attack. I would very much like to predict that this ongoing war of attrition will come to an end but, sadly, that wouldn’t be realistic.

So instead, let me add what I say every year at this time: may this year simply be a better one than the year that just passed. Lord knows, it has to be.

And oh yes, some Chinese leader will definitely die this year…

Amotz Asa-El has a good Year in Review piece in the Jerusalem Post. Click here to read it.

To receive future columns by email, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment